Road blitz for long weekend

By Kristin Edge

More police officers than ever before will patrol Northland's highways at Queen's Birthday weekend in a bid to keep the roads fatality-free.

Patrols will target alcohol, seatbelts, cell-phone usage, dangerous driving, slow drivers and crossing the centre line.

If motorists travel at more than 4km over the posted speed limit, they can expect a ticket if they are stopped.

Five speed-camera operators are also rostered on to man the vans to keep speeding motorists in check.

The operation has taken significant organisation and Northland's road policing manager, Inspector Murray Hodson, said the reason for the increased focus was simple.

"The mission is, I don't want any serious injury or fatal crashes in Northland over the weekend."

After the fatal crash near Kerikeri yesterday, the Northland road toll has risen to eight. Five deaths had been recorded at the same time last year.

While Mr Hodson would not divulge the specific number of officers involved, he said there would be a noticeable increase in the number of marked patrol cars.

The staff would be carrying out roadside checkpoints throughout the region and every driver who was stopped would be breath-tested.

And while police had invested a huge amount of resources and time, drivers also needed to take responsibility: "It requires a bit from the driving public, like patience and understanding, to contribute to what we want to achieve."

The public could help by dobbing in errant drivers, using the *555 line.

Mr Hodson said police would respond to the calls with urgency because most would relate to dangerous drivers who could contribute to a serious crash.

"If these dangerous drivers are not stopped, these behaviours will never change," Mr Hodson said.

One of the reasons for the lower speed tolerance was that holiday weekends generally had a higher crash risk than normal weekends, particularly if the holiday weekend took place during winter.

"The public need to be aware of the winter road conditions over this period," he said. "Need to show greater patience and appreciate they are not the only road users."

He also reminded drivers of the need to check vehicles and trailers before long trips, especially brakes, lights and tyres.

During last year's Queen's Birthday weekend, there were four fatal crashes around the country - but none in Northland - and these crashes resulted in seven deaths.

A total of 92 reported injury crashes had been reported in the period, 17 of them serious.

This had equated to a total social cost for the country of $37 million.

State highway traffic should be heavier than normal during the weekend.

The number of vehicles using the Northern Gateway Toll Rd on State Highway 1, north of Auckland, on the Friday before last Queen's Birthday was 18,340 - almost 2000 more than a normal Friday vehicle count of 16,499.

The Saturday count was 17,677 (15,312 on a normal Saturday) and 16713 (12,505) on Queen's Birthday Monday.

Queen's Birthday weekend officially starts at 4pm on Friday and ends at 6am on Tuesday.

- Northern Advocate

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