There's just under a week to go in the strangest month we have ever experienced. We've been told to put aside many individual rights and, for some, make huge personal sacrifices with the collective intent as a nation to fight an enemy which we cannot see, but which we know is a killer. We can daily see the international evidence.
• Covid-19 coronavirus lockdown: Neighbours dobbing in Kiwi rule breakers
• Covid-19 coronavirus: Why we should be mindful of dobbing in our neighbours
• Covid-19 coronavirus: Kiwis file 4200 reports to police of people flouting lockdown
Stay home and save lives could come across as a plea, if weren't led by a passionate, focused and genuinely kind Prime Minister, supported by a thoroughly competent bureaucracy of people, regulation, rules and suggestions, enforced by a visible and proactive police force, and reinforced by an army of New Zealanders prepared to "dob in" behaviour perceived as contrary to the national interest.
There is an enigmatic Chinese saying which goes: "With isolation there are no human rights, without isolation there are no humans left." Self-isolation in our bubble is now our thing. I wonder though, how well dobbing in our neighbours' bad behaviour, fits within our Kiwi psyche.
I recall a sense of umbrage when, as a child, being threatened with "I'll tell on you" after committing some minor misdemeanour. Generally it was only the threat which put the behaviour to rights, and we re-established the trusting relationship that communities are built on.
Covid 19 though, has put that trust to question. Can you trust your neighbour to keep to all the rules and, if they don't, is it okay to let the police know so that they can be reminded?
The police have launched an online tool to cope with the random calls they have been getting and with more than 4200 calls in the first 24 hours, this caused the system to crash. Apparently, many calls were of a general or non-specific nature which would do little to break the chain of transmission.
When it comes to bad driver behaviour though, we have long had a process called *555, to report wrongdoings. This is a system whereby members of the public can report, by mobile phone, observed dangerous driver behaviour or road-related incidents. So long as the call has a specific, verifiable factual basis then it can be followed up and acted on.
A friend describes his recent experience this way. "I was driving along X Road around midday following another vehicle at 45-50km/h. Another car sped past me approaching the blind crest of a hill, just before the Y Road roundabout.
"He continued to attempt to overtake the car in front, realised he couldn't get back to the left hand side in time, so went around the roundabout on the wrong side. Visibility is bad, and if there had been an approaching vehicle, a head-on collision was inevitable.
"He emerged from the roundabout slightly ahead of the other vehicle and went on his way. I took the registration number and followed to confirm."
The incident was reported, the driver was identified, admitted his behaviour and a ticket for dangerous driving was issued. My friend was advised of the outcome within a week of reporting it.
The *555 system receives an average of 720 calls per day. The system is intended for road incidents which are urgent but not life threatening. These might be non-injury crashes, erratic driving, traffic congestion, breakdowns and obstructions of the highway.
Around 60 per cent of the calls relate to bad driver behaviour. So long as the caller has specific details, the incident is relayed to the nearest available patrol which aims to locate the vehicle or incident being called about. The police will normally get in touch to let the caller know the outcome but this might not always be possible.
The Covid-19 situation is different and we need to be careful about a "holier than thou" mob mentality. We are supposed to be supporting each other, not turning on each other. We save lives by staying home, not dobbing in our neighbours. Believing in the critical danger that Covid-19 poses, means we all have an individual responsibility to play our part in protecting our future.
• John Williamson is chairman of Roadsafe Northland and Northland Road Safety Trust, a former national councillor for NZ Automobile Association and former Whangārei District Council member.