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Ten-One Community Edition September 05

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Making our roads safer
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Heavy enforcement cuts road toll

'Operation Life' sees dog handlers issuing infringement notices but Tasman's Road Policing Manager, Inspector Hugh Flower says the permanent operation's heavy enforcement of speed limits and the wearing of seatbelts has paid off with a drop in the district's road toll.

In place since 2003, Hugh says the operation has played a major role in the continuing downward trend in injury crashes, deaths and hospitalisations, as well as improving the crash reporting rate and decreasing crime numbers.

"The operation involved a shift in our road policing approach," says Hugh. "We were giving far too many verbal warnings and not enough enforcement.

"Verbal warnings merely reinforce bad driving habits and while verbal warnings were the norm, crash numbers continued to increase.

"We adopted a zero-tolerance approach to speeding, not wearing seatbelts and keeping left - cross the line and you pay the fine. It might not be popular with the public but it's a fact heavy enforcement means less trauma and death on the road.

The link between a decrease in road trauma and taking a hard line with motorists is pretty clear after two-and-a-half years of Operation Life.

"Within four months of Operation Life and the zero-tolerance approach, there was a substantial increase in tickets being issued and a subsequent decrease in road trauma," says Hugh.

However, the operation is more than just tickets - the link between traffic crime and general crime is well-documented.

"When there are lots of cops out there issuing tickets the crime rate drops," says Hugh. "A safety belt check picked up a known criminal who also happened to be in possession of stolen goods at the time.

"We also negated the alibi of a man accused of murder who had been issued with an infringement notice while he claimed to be elsewhere."

Operation Life has also seen Highway Patrol staff visiting out-of-the-way places in addition to highway work and Hugh believes this has probably influenced the reduction in reported rural crime in the district.

"The zero-tolerance approach has emergency health and fire services saying they are experiencing less demand for their attendance at crashes; the district has the lowest open road mean speed and second lowest urban road mean speed in the country; and we are catching criminals at the same time."

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