The ongoing sound of police sirens in Rotorua is becoming a familiar sound and it usually means one thing - a driver is fleeing police. Journalist Kelly Makiha finds out why the problem seems to be getting worse and talks to a retired couple who were nearly wiped out on Pukehangi Rd.
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Rotorua has been the worst spot in the Bay of Plenty for fleeing drivers in the past few years and the latest figures show the problem isn't getting any better.
The figures back up what locals say is frightening behaviour from drivers, mainly youngsters, who have no respect for the law or other road users as they play cat and mouse with the police.
A recent chase weaved around Rotorua streets, including on Tarawera Rd and Te Ngae Rd where police attempted to use road spikes to stop the car.
The driver is still on the run from police but the stolen vehicle he was driving was found dumped in Ngongotahā.
In 2018 there were 150 fleeing drivers in Rotorua, behind 132 in the Western Bay of Plenty, 85 in the Eastern Bay of Plenty and 69 in Taupō.
Between January and September this year - the latest figures - there have been 141 fleeing drivers in Rotorua - just shy of 2018's total in only nine months.
Rotorua's fleeing drivers between January and September this year is already outstripping other parts of the region with 95 in the Western Bay, 88 in the Eastern Bay and 57 in Taupō.
The number of fleeing drivers in Rotorua has also skyrocketed over the years with just 54 in 2009 and 53 in 2014.
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A retired Rotorua couple got the shock of their lives recently when they drove into the city from their Mangakakahi home along Pukehangi Rd.
When they neared a bend between Hodgkins St and Sunset Rd, they were met with a car being chased by police coming the other way.
The fleeing car rounded the bend so fast, it went into the middle of the road and appeared to be on two wheels, they said.
"I got a hell of a fright," the woman driving, who didn't want to be named, said.
"All I could see was this car coming towards me. When I looked in the rear-view mirror it was flying."
The woman said she was sure the car was close to losing control and rolling because it was on a tilt as it went around the corner.
The man in the passenger seat said it was the last thing they expected to see at 2pm.
"You can't let the buggers get away with it but what are the consequences for these people? It didn't matter who, when or where, if you hit an oncoming car she is bad news."
The Rotorua Daily Post asked local police about the fleeing driver trend and specifically if young drivers were baiting police into chases.
In a statement, Rotorua road policing manager Senior Sergeant Malcolm Collins said the baiting of police into pursuits had been speculated on in parts of Auckland, but there had not been a marked trend to mirror this in the Bay of Plenty.
"It can only be surmised that some drivers may do this for some entertainment value, but this comes with some significant risks to themselves, other road users and bystanding members of the public. Such driver decisions are not tolerated by police and is one which we take a strong stance on with regards to the prosecution of those who do fail to stop for police."
Collins said any manner of driving beyond either the speed limits or the driving capabilities of each driver was fraught with risk.
"There is always a lack of awareness and associated risks when driving too quickly, be it for the conditions, the environment or drivers' capabilities.
"When police staff engage in requesting a driver to stop, our risk management process is fundamental to keeping everyone safe and much work is done behind the scenes to identify the driver so that any pursuit can be terminated as quickly and as safely as possible, allowing every opportunity for a subsequent prosecution."
Collins said those who saw fleeing drivers should apply the Road Code rules -
if you see red and blue lights of any emergency services vehicle coming from behind pull over and stop, allowing them to pass.
"Do not be tempted to intervene, let our highly trained staff do their job and do it safely."