Wednesday, 28 January 2009 - 1:50pm |
National News

State Highway Safety Blitz

3 min read

A South Island-wide Police operation focussing on driver safety from Picton to Bluff will swing into action in February, and continue through to June 2009. Operation Tahi focuses on making State Highway One a safer place to be, as it repeatedly cycles through key traffic target areas in a sustained five-month effort.

In early February Operation Tahi will kick off by targeting speeds around schools. There are 75 schools and childcare centres on or within 250m of State Highway One in the South Island: 13 in Tasman police district, 25 in Canterbury and 37 in Southern.

"The safety of children on our roads is always a prime concern, and is highlighted in February as they head back to school after the holidays," says acting Canterbury Road Policing Manger, Senior Sergeant Neville Hyland. "Given the surprisingly high number of schools on or near State Highway One, plus the high traffic volumes and speed associated with this route, we want to start Operation Tahi by reminding all drivers to take extra care around schools at this time."

Another phase of Operation Tahi will target alcohol, and the 88 pubs and hotels that lie along the patch of State Highway One: 21 in Tasman police district, 28 in Canterbury and 39 in Southern.

"The operation will move on through several phases, not just speed, alcohol and drugs, but also careless and dangerous driving, high-risk and disqualified drivers, and those not wearing seat belts," says Hyland. "Then we'll start over again, and cycle through repeatedly for five months."

Operation Tahi will see an unprecedented level of co-operation between traffic units, and will involve staff from Tasman, Canterbury and Southern policing districts and the Commercial Vehicle Investigation Unit (CVIU).

"Operation Tahi combines the resources of all South Island traffic policing units, and we're working closely together to bring a co-ordinated attack on high-risk driving," says Tasman Road Policing Manager, Inspector Hugh Flower. "The aim, as always, is to reduce the number of crashes that occur, and to save people's lives."

Research shows that Thursday, Friday and Saturday have a higher number of crashes than the rest of the week, peaking on Friday between 12 noon and 3pm.

"It's no surprise that this corresponds with the days and times that we see peaks for speeding, and careless and dangerous driving," says acting Southern Road Policing Manager, Senior Sergeant Stephen Larking. "Research also tells us that average urban speeds have not been dropping in line with the open road trend of recent years, particularly in Canterbury and Southland, so we'll also focus on places where State Highway One passes through cities and small towns."

Another area to come under scrutiny is heavy motor vehicle (HMV) traffic. CVIU South Island Manager, Senior Sergeant Warren Newbury, says despite crashes involving HMV's making up only 14 per cent of all South Island State Highway One crashes from February to June 2004 to 2008, they account for half of the fatalities.

"Trucks hit harder, so a crash involving a truck and a car is more likely to result in death or serious injury," says Newbury. "This is why it's so important to ensure our HMV fleet is complying with the rules of the road, and why we're looking closely at HMV driver behaviour and vehicle standards."

Newbury says figures for the notorious Kaikoura coast road show the usual scapegoats of young, inexperienced drivers and bad weather are not to blame for the majority of HMV crashes.

"Too many experienced truck drivers regularly exceed signposted corner advisory speeds and brake deep into corners, and some regularly cut across the centre line on bends. We'll be addressing this behaviour throughout Operation Tahi."