Don’t be an (Easter) egg

The Northland Age - - Local News -

The police have had a much higher pro­file in the Far North this week, although they haven’t al­ways been im­me­di­ately iden­ti­fi­able.

They’ve been us­ing un­marked ve­hi­cles, com­bined with check­points and of­fi­cers sta­tioned out­side dairies and bak­eries, as part of an op­er­a­tion aimed at driv­ing home road safety mes­sages, par­tic­u­larly fo­cus­ing on us­ing seat belts and not us­ing phones while be­hind the wheel.

The four-day op­er­a­tion ends to­day, and com­pli­ant driv­ers stopped at check­points are given Easter eggs, lol­lipops and pens. The ma­jor aim is to achieve a crash-free Easter in North­land.

Su­per­in­ten­dent Wayne Ew­ers, head­ing the op­er­a­tion, said tick­ets were a de­ter­rent, but ide­ally peo­ple should just buckle up ev­ery time they got into a ve­hi­cle, which would re­duce the re­gion’s road toll con­sid­er­ably.

Ac­cord­ing to police statis­tics, 2294 tick­ets have been is­sued to phone-us­ing driv­ers in North­land in the decade since it be­came il­le­gal, while over the same pe­riod 29,518 tick­ets, gen­er­at­ing $4.3 mil­lion in fines, were is­sued to driv­ers and pas­sen­gers who were not us­ing seat belts.

“We just want peo­ple to put their seat belts on and stay off their damn phones,” Su­per­in­ten­dent Ew­ers said.

“Don’t be sur­prised if you head to your lo­cal bak­ery or dairy and don’t put your seat belt on and you are spo­ken to by an of­fi­cer.”

Twelve of those who died on North­land roads last year, and 15 of the 40 who died in 2017, had not been wear­ing seat belts.

“I know a lot of driv­ers and pas­sen­gers do put seat belts on, but there is still a group that don’t, and if they are in a crash sit­u­a­tion they are more likely to end up a fa­tal­ity or se­ri­ously in­jured,” he added.

This week’s op­er­a­tion had the ac­tive sup­port of a num­ber of other agen­cies, in­clud­ing North­land Road Safety, the Far North Dis­trict and North­land Re­gional coun­cils, Far North REAP, the North­land DHB and ACC.

Mean­while the NZ Trans­port Agency Road Safety Out­comes re­port paints a grim pic­ture of North­land’s crash rates over the last five years, with 143 deaths and 739 se­ri­ous injuries. In terms of pop­u­la­tion the re­gion had more fa­tal or se­ri­ous crashes than any other in the De­cem­ber 2018 quar­ter, and topped the statis­tics in al­co­hol, drugs and speed as crash fac­tors.

It also had the worst record in the coun­try in deaths and se­ri­ous injuries where seat belts were not used.

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Act­ing Sergeant Mike Green­wood said yes­ter­day, while set­ting up a check­point in North Rd Kaitaia, that com­pli­ance rates had been not too bad. Seat belts were more of an issue than cell phone use, although he had heard all the usual ex­cuses.

“I just pulled out,” “I’m just go­ing around the cor­ner.”

“Peo­ple are dy­ing be­cause they’re not wear­ing seat belts,” he said. “It doesn’t mat­ter how short your trip is, you must put your belt on ev­ery time. Even a crash at low speed can cause se­ri­ous in­jury.”

Driv­ers in ru­ral ar­eas tended to be less en­thu­si­as­tic about seat belt use, he added.

Act­ing Sergeant Mike Green­wood re­wards a per­fectly be­haved driver with an Easter egg in North Rd Kaitaia yes­ter­day.

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