Editorial: Road toll criticism of police unfair


I was shocked at the holiday weekend road toll, but I shouldn't have been.

After a brilliant Easter break with no deaths on the country's roads, I had been hoping for a repeat over Queen's Birthday Weekend.

I know the police were too and I will assume most normal people also had their fingers crossed.

Unfortunately, it was not to be.

The final Queen's Birthday weekend road toll stands at seven and there were 431 crashes, just two more than in the same period last year.

On the same holiday weekend last year, one person died.

There were no fatal crashes and just eight accidents in the Western Bay at the weekend. A motorcyclist had his leg amputated after he and the driver of a ute crashed.

Expecting another zero toll across the country was too ambitious. The difference between life and death on our country's roads is a fickle business. It can come down to some idiot drink driving, someone overtaking dangerously, or the split second in which someone becomes distracted. It's easy to be an innocent victim.

Police have come under fire from road safety campaigner Clive Matthew-Wilson, who says the toll is proof the road policing strategy is not working.

He has criticised police for issuing "a million tickets to ordinary motorists" and thinking this will change the behaviour of high-risk drivers. He believes better roads and vehicles have contributed to a lowering of the toll over the past half century.

Police reject this, saying they have made huge gains in the past decade. Last year was the first time the national toll was under 300, and the country is on track to have a similar result this year.

I have no doubt better roads and vehicles have helped but Mr Matthew-Wilson is unfair to attack the police for trying to keep our roads safe.

Anyone speeding or otherwise breaking the law is a threat to other motorists and deserves to be ticketed. I would like to believe media coverage and advertising on road safety have also changed some people's behaviour.

Police are doing all they can with the resources they have.

But policing and raising awareness aside, our roads will always be dangerous because of driver error, environmental conditions and problems with vehicles.

Driver error scares me the most. Based on what I see, there are plenty of bad drivers out there.

Every time we hit the road, we put our lives and safety at risk.

It's critical we all keep the pressure on this important issue. It's also important we drive cautiously and defensively.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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