Traffic light trick stopping drunks

Operators monitoring Auckland's road network often target individual vehicles and stop them by manually switching traffic lights to red.

But operators at the Joint Traffic Operations Centre (JTOC) in Auckland will only take this action if a driver is clearly drunk, JTOC control room manager David Murphy said.

"It's amazing how long a drunk driver will stop at a red light, but they usually fall asleep within about 10 minutes," he said.

By this time the police had usually arrived at the scene.

"It's a good feeling to get people like that off the road," Murphy added.

The Auckland JTOC is connected to more than 450 closed-circuit TV cameras, most of which can be controlled remotely.

Some cameras can be zoomed in to focus on a subject up to 2 kilometres away, Murphy said.

But he stressed JTOC, which is operated jointly by the New Zealand Transport Authority (NZTA) and Auckland Transport, was not designed to be a surveillance network.

Its main purpose is to keep traffic flowing safely, manage road incidents and provide road users with timely traffic information.

A similar centre operated by NZTA in Wellington monitors state highways from Wellington City to the Desert Road in the central North Island, and a third centre covers central Christchurch.

Murphy was addressing overseas transport specialists attending the Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) Asia Pacific Forum in Auckland last month.

JTOC was one of several showcase transport installations that opened their doors to forum delegates.

ITS New Zealand president Peter McCombs said the organisation was formed to help solve transport problems through technology.

The ITS Asia Pacific annual forum, which was being held in New Zealand for the first time, had attracted delegates from 28 countries.