Report risky drivers, police urge

By Kristin Edge

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Northland road police are urging people to dob in errant drivers by pushing *555 on their cellphone.

Road Policing manager Inspector Murray Hodson said there was a renewed drive to ensure staff rapidly responded to *555 reported incidents and tried to identify the offenders.

Many calls to police are related to traffic behaviour and last year nearly 253,000 people phoned the number.

The *555 line has existed for more than 20 years as a means of people contacting police about non-urgent traffic incidents.

"If a driver knows their behaviour will be reported to police and police will respond in a timely manner and they are likely to be stopped, then driving behaviours would change," Mr Hodson said.

Police received numerous calls about bad driving at Northland hotspots, including SH1 south of Whangarei, Brynderwyn Hills and SH14 to Dargaville. Complaints ranged from speeding drivers, to unrestrained children, to stock loose on highways.

"We take these calls seriously and we want to hear from the public about poor driving that has the potential to lead to a crash or, even worse, a fatality. We are encouraging people to call *555."

It is not illegal to call that number on a cellphone while driving. And it appears Northlanders like to use the service after a request on the Northern Advocate Facebook page for readers' experiences of using *555 drew a great response.

Brynn Pitman Peek, of Whangarei, said she had called a few times, one call resulting in an arrest and conviction. She rang police after seeing a man driving with a child on his lap.

Another time, she reported a drunk driver had parked in the south-bound lane by Gull Service station and gone to sleep. The man admitted his guilt in court.

Julie Dickeson reported an incident near Ruakaka.

"They kept throwing beer cans out the window. We were all doing the right speed etc, so there was nothing really wrong other than they were probably drinking, given they were beer cans, and there was the potential to make someone react badly.

"We called the number, they asked us to stay on the line; we carried on following for about 10km and then the police pulled them over. They phoned us back to say it had been dealt with."

It was not such a positive experience for Kamo's Brad Flower, who said he rang on the way back from Auckland. He got an operator just north of Wellsford, was still on the line with them at the Kamo lights, and the offending car had not been stopped.

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE

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