A fatal accident on State Highway 29 early this morning has brought 2017's road toll to 326, two short of last year's total toll.
A person critically injured when a car crashed into a car that had broken down on the road through the Kaimai Ranges has died.
The crash happened at 4.30am today.
Three people were also taken to Tauranga Hospital with minor injuries.
Road toll closes in on 2016 total
The 2017 road toll is set to be the highest in some time, with a month and a half of the year still to go.
An analysis of the road toll by consultants Deloitte, and just released by the Ministry of Transport, has pointed to the increase in the number of kilometers driven and the disproportionate number of motorcycles involved in serious road crashes.
It also questioned the lack of information over drug use and the distraction of mobile phones.
Traffic and road safety researcher Sam Charleton told Nine to Noon today that while fluctuations in the toll did happen, crashes were generally becoming more severe.
"Things like the seatbelt issue, and things like speed, we know increase the severity of crashes. What we don't know is the role of alcohol and drugs in increasing the severity of a crash."
Find out more about what's behind the road toll and what might help bring it down on Insight, after 8am on Sunday.