Call to bring back traffic cops

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Carnage on New Zealand roads is prompting a call to bring back traffic cops.

South Canterbury man Bruce Raines is among those who want to see the return of an independently focused road policing unit to stop the death and destruction on New Zealand roads.

Mr Raines owns a 1990 Mitsubishi V3000, once used by Ministry of Transport (MOT) traffic officers.

He says the car, which still sports its traffic officer colours and logo, often prompts people to tell him their bad driving stories.

Many were frustrated by the lack of policing on the roads, compared with when traffic officers patrolled the country.

The MOT was responsible for enforcement of traffic laws before its division of traffic officers merged with police in 1992.

“Since the merger with the police, there seems to be less resources to be on the road.”

His comments were not a dig at police, Mr Raines said.

“The frontline police are doing their best .. [They are] worked to the bone.”

South Canterbury truck driver Leighton Hogg also supports a call to bring back traffic cops. He drives about 5000km a week and sometimes sees only about three or four police on the road during that time – but plenty of bad driving.

He had called the bad driving report line, *555, on a regular basis.

“I feel like a serial caller, but I have to because I see so much potential carnage.”

He recently reported a car being driven erratically.

“It turned out to be a recidivist drunk driver. [Police] didn’t have anyone in the area so wanted me to stay behind him [until they could send an officer],” he said.

Mr Hogg said he frequently called *555 for various reasons, a recent case being a car he saw travelling at an estimated 160kmh.

He also recently reported two cars in an industrial area near Christchurch Airport travelling at more than 100kmh in a 50kmh zone.

“People just please themselves. They need more enforcement out on the roads that are visible,” he said.

He also saw a lot of people using their cellphones while driving.

“Drivers [are] fixated on driving [while] using mobile phones, hence vehicles are wandering over [the] centre line, speed is inconsistent and [it] also contributes to accidents.”

Both believed a totally separate unit with a focus on road policing was the answer and a stronger presence of law enforcers on the roads – morning and night – would help deter speeding, tailgating and bad driving in general.

“Neither of us dislike frontline staff. It’s [about] police management – it comes back to the NZTA and Government.” Mr Raines said.

However, Mid-South Canterbury area commander Inspector Dave Gaskin said he did not support a return of a separate traffic officer system.

“It’s going back to something that wasn’t successful previously,” he said.

Insp Gaskin, who has been an officer since before the merger with the MOT, said police were now assigned traffic enforcement duties within their roles and had a responsibility to follow those through.

“At the moment it’s the best system. It’s definitely better than the old ministry days.”

South Canterbury road safety co-ordinator Daniel Naude said the trend towards serious and fatal crashes suggested more needed to be done.

“[Roading and road safety groups] need to look at a strategy that will stop this from happening.

“We’ve been going on in the past with business as usual in some cases. It’s not working. We need to find a different approach.”