Police will be checking driver behaviour across the country this long weekend, including specific operations in Northland and Tasman-West Coast.
Friday is Matariki, the second time the Māori New Year has been celebrated in New Zealand with a public holiday.
In 2022, there were five fatal road crashes during the Matariki long weekend, with two in Waikato and one each in Northland, Auckland and Bay of Plenty.
This year’s Matariki coincides with the end of school holidays, which means a potential for increased traffic said Waka Kotahi senior manager road safety Fabian Marsh.
He urged people to plan their trips using Waka Kotahi’s journey planner to avoid peak times.
Road safety is everyone’s responsibility, said Superintendent Steve Greally, National Road Policing Centre director.
“Matariki is often a time of reflection and remembering loved ones and we don’t want to see more families mourning the loss of anyone due to a road crash that could have been avoided.”
Northland police will be running Operation Picket Fence, targeting behaviour which contributes to crashes.
“Police will be monitoring driving behaviour across the country this long weekend and urge people to use safe driving behaviour.”
Speeding, driving distracted by the likes of phones, driving impaired by alcohol or drugs and failing to wear seatbelts will be the focus of the operation.
Motorists are also encouraged to report dangerous driving by calling *555.
The operation comes after Northland’s “appalling” road toll was linked to low breath testing rates.
There have been 21 fatalities on Northland roads so far in 2023, which according to the latest report by Waka Kotahi (NZ Transport Agency), is a region with falling breath testing but the highest rate of alcohol-related crashes.
New information, supplied to the Automobile Association under the Official Information Act, shows there were 79 alcohol-related deaths in Northland between 2018 and 2022. This includes where alcohol was present but below the legal limit.
A new plan aims for Northland police to carry out 150,000 breath tests in the year starting July 1, 2023 – almost twice as many as have been done since 2015.
Meanwhile, West Coast police will also be running a campaign over the long weekend, with six extra officers in the West Coast-Tasman region for Operation Matariki.
Police will be on highways to increase visibility and deter risky driving behaviour, said Senior Sergeant Brent Cook.
The operation will focus on open roads with a speed limit of 80kph or higher, where 73% of all fatal crashes occur, he said.
“Police encourage road users to drive to the conditions to ensure a safe and happy holiday weekend,” Cook said.
The official 2023 Matariki holiday period begins 4pm Thursday, July 13 and ends 6am Monday, July 17.