Unmarked police cars that don't look like your typical unmarked police vehicles combined with checkpoints and officers outside dairies and bakeries are all part of an operation driving the road safety message home in Northland.

A four-day police operation that started on Monday will see police officers across the region use different tactics to nab those not wearing seatbelts or using their cellphones while driving.

Police are making no apologies for using the different tactics as they aim for a crash-free Easter in Northland.

Senior Sergeant Ian Row with some of the Easter eggs with the message
Senior Sergeant Ian Row with some of the Easter eggs with the message "Crash Free Easter" that will be handed out at checkpoints. Photo / Michael Cunningham

Head of the operation Inspector Wayne Ewers said tickets were a deterrent but ideally people should just buckle up every time they got in a vehicle which would reduce the region's road toll considerably.

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New Zealand Police statistics show that in Northland over the last 10 years, since it was made illegal to use a mobile device while driving, there were a total of 2294 tickets issued to drivers flouting the law.

What is worse is the statistics relating to drivers and passengers not restrained properly during the period from 2009 to 2018, which over the last decade has resulted in 29,518 tickets issued in Northland, and generated $4.3 million in fines.

"We just want people to put their seatbelts on and stay off their damn phones," Ewers said.
"Don't be surprised if you head to your local bakery or dairy and don't put your seatbelt on and you are spoken to by an officer."

Of the 35 fatalities last year, 12 people were not wearing seatbelts and in 2017, of the 40 fatal crashes, 15 people were unrestrained.

"I know a large number of drivers and passengers do put seatbelts on, but there is still a group that don't and if they are in a crash situation they are more likely to end up a fatality or seriously injured."

Ewers said other agencies who were involved in the operation included Northland Road Safety, Far North Council, Northland Regional Council, Kaipara District Council, Whangārei District Council, REAP, the Northland District Health Board and ACC.

As part of the operation drivers who were stopped at checkpoints and found to be compiling with the road rules would be handed out Easter eggs, lollipops and pens pushing the message "Crash Free Easter".

Northland's appalling road safety record is backed up by the NZ Transport Agency Road Safety Outcomes report which gives an overall picture of fatal and serious casualties in road crashes over the past five years.

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Northland police district has the highest number of fatal or serious crashes per 100,000 population for the quarter October 1 to December 31, 2018. The region tops the statistics when it comes to alcohol and drugs being involved in crashes and having the most crashes where speed was a factor.

Northland also has the worst record in the country for fatal and serious crashes where seatbelts were not worn.

During the five-year period from 2014 to 2018, there were a total of 143 deaths on Northland roads and 739 serious casualties.

The social cost of the fatal and serious crashes annually, for the same period, on the region's roads was $231.112 m.