Tuesday, 12 June 2018 - 9:10am

An L of a lesson for learners

2 min read

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L plates

Police staff are being encouraged to give learner drivers a lesson they won’t forget – by handing out L plates instead of infringements.

Boxes of self-adhesive L plates have been sent to districts to be given out as an alternative to a ticket for learner drivers not displaying plates

It follows a Central District initiative which arose after Highway Patrol Sergeants Chris Fraser and Mike Tarttelin wondered if there was a better way to deal with unplated learners than an infringement.

They worked with Horizons Regional Council to print plates, with the conditions for learner drivers printed on the inside face.

Now unplated learners are given an L plate along with a written traffic warning which will generate an alert if they are caught out again.

“We’re constantly hearing that offenders are finding their way into the justice system initially via Road Policing interactions,” says Mike, who gives Chris – who no longer works in Highway Patrol - credit for the original idea.

“We’re in this environment of looking at alternative resolutions that achieve the end goal of people getting their licence and being on the road legally.”

He says staff take the opportunity of talking to the driver about the conditions printed on the plates, and ensure the plates are stuck up.

The feedback has been positive, he says, with drivers appreciating the alternative to the potential 25 demerits and $100 infringement.

Unaccompanied learners must still arrange for a licensed driver to supervise them, or leave their vehicle and finish their journey in a police car. “We make clear that the L plate is for their next journey,” says Mike. “The usual rules apply.”

Mike says staff are mindful of the positive affect the initiative can have on Police targets, particularly the 90 percent trust and confidence and 25 percent reduction in Māori reoffending.

“If Road Policing staff ever thought they had to opportunity to load people up with more and more offences, those times have gone,” says Mike. “It’s a new environment and we want people to have licences and be on the road legally.”

Annually, police issue around 32,000 tickets to drivers for not having an L plate. It has little effect on safety and can be counter-productive if the driver cannot afford the infringement, and the demerits make it harder for them to get a licence.

“This is a fantastic opportunity to get the driver compliant on the spot without having to take any enforcement action for it,” says Inspector Pete McKennie, Road Policing Operations Manager.

“This will contribute to our targets – in particular the 25 percent reduction in reoffending by Māori, and the 90 percent of people feeling safe and having high trust and confidence in Police.”

It is expected that the number of infringement notices for failing to display L plates will fall drastically, and that notices for the offence are only issued in exceptional circumstances, with the circumstances explained in the notes.