We need to get tougher on fleeing drivers - Police

By Morgan Tait

Police and Transport Ministry want tougher penalties for fleeing drivers, and people who withhold information about them. PHOTO / FILE
Police and Transport Ministry want tougher penalties for fleeing drivers, and people who withhold information about them. PHOTO / FILE

Fleeing drivers could face more jail time and have their vehicles automatically confiscated if politicians support advice for harsher penalties.

A report by the New Zealand Police and Ministry of Transport has outlined the agencies' hopes for harsher penalties to be introduced.

The report states its main goals as reducing fleeing driver numbers and high rate of death and injuries that result from such crimes, as well as increasing the amount of people who give police details about fleeing drivers.

"Introducing stronger and more targeted penalties will send a strong message from government that failing to stop is a dangerous action that puts public safety at risk and will not be tolerated, and act as a stronger deterrent to this type of offending."

If adopted, changes would be made to the Land Transport Act 1998 and Sentencing Act 2002. The Land Transport Amendment Bill is currently before the Transport and Industrial Relations Committee, with submissions due by October 27.

The 37-page report outlines the dangers of fleeing drivers and the impact of the crimes on New Zealand communities.

"Failure to stop represents a calculated and deliberate attempt to evade punishment for offending - both for the original offending and the failing to stop.

"When drivers attempt to flee police they are endangering the safety of their passengers, innocent road-using members of the public and police.

"All too frequently, fleeing police ends in crashes, serious injury or death."

In the past five financial years, as a result of fleeing driver incidents there has been:

• 29 deaths

• 582 injuries

• 1969 fleeing driver-related crashes

• Costing an estimated $226 million

Specifically, the report recommends introducing more non-monetary sanctions, such as jail time and automatic car confiscation.

"Increasing penalties may result in general deterrence, eg a larger group of potential fleeing drivers are deterred from fleeing police due to fear of apprehension and resulting penalties.

"Current offenders 'chance their luck' on not getting caught because they know police have to abandon pursuits once they are public safety concerns.

"However, increasing the penalties for failing to stop in combination with increasing penalties for failing to provide information is likely to incentivise more people to provide information, particularly those people who were not the actual offender."

There is no recommendations to change the current Police Pursuits Policy, which is the rules officers follow for pursuits.

A police spokeswoman today said the agency could not comment further than what was in the report.

- NZ Herald

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