Light-runners in the gun

By Mathew Dearnaley, Sam Boyer

Month-long police blitz will remind motorists that red really does mean stop.

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

Police are launching a month-long blitz on red light runners on Auckland roads.

After an eight-week Auckland Transport "red means stop" warning campaign, police have begun cracking down on drivers who still haven't got the message.

From Counties Manukau to the North Shore, they will be targeting drivers at some of the region's most dangerous red light intersections.

"Intersections are among the most dangerous places on the New Zealand road network," Counties Manukau district road policing manager Inspector Neil Fisher said yesterday.

"So we've got both overt and covert police actions taking place. This month it's a massive focus for us and we're putting extra resources into it."

Auckland accounted for 35 of the country's 100 most dangerous intersections for the 10 years to 2012, according to a list issued last week by the Government's Transport Agency.

Mr Fisher said 46 per cent of fatal and serious injury crashes in urban areas around New Zealand in the past five years occurred at intersections.

"That's compelling evidence to me that we've got to do some actions in this area. The thrust of this campaign is about making intersections safer."

Last year almost 18,000 drivers and cyclists were caught running red and amber lights nationally, police infringement data show.

But there were likely to have been many more who weren't caught and ticketed.

"You've got an element of inattention, but you've also got people gambling with their lives. They see an amber light and think, we want to get somewhere a little bit earlier," Mr Fisher said.

Red-light running was blamed for 11 road deaths and 1635 injuries in the five years to 2012 at an estimated social cost of $215 million.

Auckland Transport says it has played its part by plastering intersection safety messages on the back of 28 buses and on 19 billboards near motorway exits and intersections, such as Pitt St and Nelson St, throughout February and March.

Now it is over to police across the three Auckland districts Counties Manukau, Auckland and Waitemata to get tough on drivers caught flouting a law that carries a $150 fine.

Even those whose general tasks don't include ticketing, such as detectives, will be on the look out - using both marked and unmarked cars, Mr Fisher said.

Police "spotters" posted at intersections to observe red light running would radio officers in nearby patrol cars to pull offenders over.

"We're always doing it, but this month it's a high-priority time for us."

The police remain guarded about when they will introduce new red-light cameras, despite the Automobile Association's hope that up to 20 will be rolled out around the country from late this year.

Associate Transport Minister Michael Woodhouse issued a "position paper" in July on how more cameras could be introduced, saying he expected to see them appearing at intersections from the end of this year.

But national road policing manager Superintendent Carey Griffiths was more circumspect last night, saying the police and the Transport Agency were considering options for "the placement of a very small number of red light cameras for evaluation, potentially by the end of this year. That work is still ongoing".

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