A crash resulting in serious injury or death is more likely to be caused by a distracted driver than a drinking one.
And with the deaths of seven people in road crashes last weekend and a serious accident in Temple View on Friday, those working on the front line are pleading with drivers to stay focussed.
Waikato District Health Board trauma specialist Dr Grant Christey said distracted drivers cause 25 per cent of serious crashes, whereas drinking drivers cause 18 per cent.
"The most common reasons are texting or talking on a mobile phone, people talking in the car, or kids in the back."
Christey heads the Midland Regional Trauma System, which collects data from every trauma event, including road crashes, from five district health boards: Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Lakes, Tairawhiti and Taranaki. An event relates to an individual and can include more than one injury.
In the Midland Region, there were close to 4000 trauma events related to injuries caused by transport between 2012 and 2014.
That's an average of 25 per week. Males are over-represented in the statistics: 924 events in 2014, compared with 447 for females.
He said Australian studies suggest those rates are higher for truck drivers, where 70 per cent of crashes are most likely caused by distracted drivers.
"They also suggest you are 400 per cent more likely to crash if you're using a mobile phone."
Driver distraction includes anything that prevents the driver from focussing on safe driving and decision-making, and it's almost always avoidable.
"A simple thing like texting is enough to take your eyes off the road for a few critical seconds," Christey said.
"If you roll down a cliff, if you crash into a big truck, the airbag's not going to save you.
"Concentrate on the road, put away the phone, take your time. It's commonsense stuff."
Of the seven deaths on the region's roads last weekend, five occurred in the Waikato.
Christey said the Waikato has a lot of high-speed roads per head of population compared with more urban areas.
"The roads are not always great quality, particularly in the rural areas. They may have narrow streets, narrow shoulders, slightly older designs," he said.
"And the lighting is obviously not there in the rural areas so much.
"And with a lot of high-speed roads, that's a lot for police to cover."
Christey's message is echoed by Waikato road policing manager Inspector Freda Grace.
"Everything we do is to ensure drivers are being safe," she said.
"Driving to the conditions - it doesn't just include weather. It can be the layout of the road, the condition, changing from four lanes to two.
"Just think about what you're doing out there."
Grace said patrols will be increased over the Christmas holidays and police will be changing the way they deploy officers.
The regional trauma system that Christey and his team work on is so specific, users are able to see trends from past data and identify problem areas.
"There are about 130 data points and we can select any type of trauma, including the severity."
Areas in the Bay of Plenty seem to be problematic in terms of road crash trauma, including Te Puke, Kawerau and Rotorua. There is also an increased risk in the Huntly area.
"We've also applied patient costing to them so we can tell what it costs a hospital for an individual patient."
The average social cost for every person who dies on the road is $3.98 million. For those with serious injuries, it is $724,000 and $70,000 for every minor injury crash.
The national road toll sits at 305 so far - 22 more than this time last year. That's $1.214 billion so far this year.
Christey said they will be looking to add more variables to the data next year, including road quality and then cycling safety.
He said the added data will enable the team to build more specific risk-profiles.
"We will be looking to match up with the serious crash unit and their data in the New Year."
In 2011, they cause crashes that resulted in 34 deaths and 204 serious injuries
Texting drivers 23 times more likely to crash
Majority of fatal and serious crashes occurred at peak times: 7-9am and 4-6pm.
Biggest distractions (in no specific order):
- Mobile phones
- Talking to passengers
- Reaching for objects
- Eating and drinking
- Make-up or shaving
- Entertainment systems
(statistics from NZTA)