Western Bay of Plenty essential workers claiming the road rules don't apply to them have been caught reaching speeds as high as 176km/h during the Covid-19 alert level 4 lockdown.
Tauranga police have caught 15 people driving more than 140km/h on local highways within the last two weeks. This includes the driver of a Mustang caught driving 176km/h on Route K.
Acting Senior Sergeant Wayne Hunter said the spike in speeders and the speeds they were travelling at was appalling. But what made matters worse was the attitude of some.
"It has amazed me ... The common reason given for speeding was that they thought they were exempt from the road rules as they were classed as essential workers," Hunter said.
While essential workers are allowed to travel to and from work or to get supplies, road rules remain the same. Drivers caught driving 40km/h or more above the limit are issued a fine and lose their licence for 28 days. Anyone caught speeding by 50km/h or more goes to court.
The Mustang driver, whose occupation is a machine technician, was caught on April 13, the same day as other drivers were caught travelling at 163km/h, 144km/h and 141km/h.
"I have serious concerns about the increase in speeds, which is mainly due to less traffic on our roads," Hunter said.
Each of the 15 drivers was caught speeding on Tauranga highways.
Hunter said speed was the number one killer on New Zealand roads and police would do everything they could to keep the road toll down.
"The reasoning that essential workers should be exempt from our road safety regulations astounds me," he said.
"Speeding is a voluntary action, the same as using a cellphone or not wearing a seatbelt, so why should these not be policed and ticketed just because we are in a pandemic situation?
"I make no apology if [people] get ticketed for speeding."
Western Bay road safety advocate Margaret Murray-Benge said excessive speeds should be heavily penalised as there were "no excuses".
"I think it's very, very irresponsible. What dumb twits would do that?" she said.
"We have got good traffic officers out there doing their job. People have a responsibility to abide to the rules. Everybody's got to pull their weight. It just concerns me that we have such irresponsible people prepared to put others at risk. It's just not good enough."
On Tuesday, a Hamilton essential worker claimed a police officer breached her 2m bubble while issuing her a speeding ticket in the city.
While the nurse, who would not be named, accepted she was speeding, she had hoped to police would show leniency to essential workers on their way to jobs.
"The reasoning that essential workers should be exempt from our road safety regulations astounds me."
A man speaking on the woman's behalf told NZME she was crying and shaking from the "deplorable" incident, in which the officer offered "no compassion, kindness or empathy".
Waikato's road policing boss Inspector Jeff Penno said he stood by his staff's decision to go ahead with the ticket, saying he had "zero tolerance" for speeding, especially during the Covid-19 lockdown.
Just because the country was in lockdown, it didn't change the road rules including speed limits, Penno said.
"The laws of physics have not changed despite the lockdown level. The traffic regulations haven't altered and while police are being as lenient as we can to anything that people don't have control over, and we accept that people can't get warrant of fitnesses and we accept that driver's licences have expired and we have been really lenient with the public on that.
"The things that people are doing voluntarily are speeding, not wearing seatbelts, using their phone or driving while impaired and we will enforce those specific offences because people are choosing to offend and the consequences of those offences when something happens are so devastating."