Inside New Zealand’s road toll: ‘It’s heartbreaking’ – Stuff.co.nz

Posted: January 3, 2022 at 2:08 am

Grant Ramsden was sitting in Christchurch Womens Hospital with his wife, who was dealing with complications from a major surgery, when he received a call from his step-mother.

She said theres been an accident and your father has passed away.

It was shortly after 5.30pm on May 21 when his father Russell Ramsden, 75, was killed in a crash with a truck as he rode his electric bike at the intersection of Shands and Halswell Junction roads in Hornby.

It just threw me, Ramsden said of the phone call.

I was already in survival mode trying to be there for my wife and then when my fathers thing came along I was just thinking of everything I could do.

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So instead of breaking down I actually went into fighting mode and just concentrated on things that needed to be done.

Ramsden loved adventure. He sailed yachts, rode motorbikes and led hikes for the Over Forties Tramping Club in Canterbury. He was also a safety officer at construction firm Fulton Hogan.

Its heartbreaking. He had a lifetime ahead of him. He was only just starting to retire, his son said.

As the months passed, Ramsden said he tried not to think too much about the crash.

It makes me overthink it, and think about putting myself in his shoes and going through it myself in my own head, and thinking how traumatic it is Most of the time I just shelve it and put it in a box and poke it away somewhere and dont try and open it too often.

SUPPLIED

From left, David Ramsden, Russell Ramsden, Grant Ramsden and Andrew Ramsden. Russell Ramsden was killed in crash in Hornby in May.

A police investigation found no fault on behalf of the truck driver. Several factors were considered to be the cause of the crash, including the trucks design, which meant it had a large blind spot, road design, and Ramsdens positioning of his bike and his choice not to use the bike lane.

The driver was doing everything he was supposed to be doing and dad was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The past eight months had been devastating for the family as they adjusted to life without Ramsden.

I look to my father for a lot of things in life, as you get on you dont need as much, but you still need them there to ask for help or knowledge, and its all gone, and it makes you really upset.

I miss him dearly wed rather him take an extra five seconds and be aware of his surroundings than just marching on and hope for the best, and he could still be here.

A total of 319 people were killed on New Zealand roads as of 5pm December 31, 2021 , up from 318 at the same time the previous year, according to the Ministry of Transport.

STACY SQUIRES/STUFF

Senior pupils at Rangiora's Te Matauru have launched a petition to get their local council to improve road safety outside their school. (First published March 2021)

In Canterbury, 47 people died on the road in 2021 in 36 fatal crashes. At the same time last year, 31 people had been killed in 29 crashes.

In 2017, 55 people died on Canterbury roads. It was the highest road toll since 2007 when 56 people died. The toll in the region has surpassed 50 only three times since 2000.

The official Christmas holiday road toll period started at 4pm on December 24 and runs until 6am on January 5. Since then, there have been seven deaths on New Zealand roads, according to Ministry of Transport data.

On Christmas Eve, one person was killed in a two-car crash that injured five others south of Taup. On the morning of Christmas Day, a motorcyclist died in Hamilton, while another died after a truck and car collided in Waihola, just south of Dunedin.

About 10.30pm on Christmas evening, a pedestrian was hit and killed by a car in New Windsor, Auckland.

On Boxing Day, Rangiora man John Osborne, 62, was killed after his truck plummeted down the bank of Canterbury's Lewis Pass in the early hours of the morning.

The next day, a motorcyclist died in a crash involving three cars in Huntly, Waikato.

NZ Police

Police director of road policing Superintendent Steve Greally.

On December 29, a person died following a three-car crash in Northland, which also left another person in a critical condition, two more in serious conditions and five people with minor injuries.

Polices director of road policing Superintendent Steve Greally spoke with Stuff about the year on New Zealand roads.

He said there had been far less crashes compared to 2020, but more deaths.

He pointed to several multiple fatality crashes including the deaths of five teenage boys in Timaru, a quadruple fatal that included a group of country music fans on their way to the Gold Guitar music festival in Gore, and two adults and an 8-year-old girl killed after the driver went through a controlled intersection and was T-boned by a milk tanker.

Greally said crashes involving multiple fatalities were horror scenes.

These crashes are hard enough to attend when theres serious injury involved, let alone the death of one person, let alone the deaths of several.

Theyre extremely traumatic to our people psychologically theyre very, very hard for our people to grasp.

JOHN BISSET/Stuff

Area commander Dave Gaskin examines the wreckage of a car following a crash in Timaru that killed five teens.

Around the country police were seeing the same basic mistakes, including people not wearing seatbelts, impairment, distraction and speed.

Ive been in this role now for seven years, and its incredibly frustrating when you think about how simple the solution is, Greally said.

Its pretty basic stuff. We know what to do, weve just got to do it, a big part of it is on every motorists shoulders, theyre the only ones who can decide how theyre going to drive that vehicle, the risks theyre going to or not going to take.

Police have launched Operation Deterrence, which includes high police visibility, unpredictability as to where police would be, and network coverage.

Asked how he measured success, Greally pointed to the obvious indicator of a reduction in death and serious injuries.

Public sentiment was also a key indicator, he said.

Do they feel safe on our roads? . Thats the purpose of New Zealand police to ensure that every person who lives, works or transits through New Zealand is safe and feels safe and that includes on our roads. To do that we have to be achieving general deterrence, theres no other way around it.

As the holiday season gets under way, Greally asked motorists to use a bit of empathy for other road users.

For people that have been locked down for a long time they might feel a big urge to get out and leave their judgement at home, we urge people not to do that.

We want people to use judgement at all times, be patient on our roads and respect the fact that in every vehicle that is around you is a human being in there with family, friends and a future, just as vulnerable as you are.

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Inside New Zealand's road toll: 'It's heartbreaking' - Stuff.co.nz

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