Eyes in the sky for road safety

Police will launch spotter planes and impose strict speed restrictions during the holiday season to battle the rising number of deaths on Central District roads.

Forty-four people have already died this year in crashes in the Central Police District, which includes Palmerston North, Whanganui and New Plymouth.

The number is well up on the 38 for all of last year. At this time last year, 35 people had died on the region's roads.

From today until January 7, Central District police will enforce a lower speeding tolerance, meaning anyone caught driving at more than 4 kilometres over the speed limit will be ticketed.

Police spotter planes were first used in the Central District in 2009 but will be back patrolling the skies over the holiday season.

Senior Sergeant Kris Burbery, of Central District Highway Patrol, said nearly all fatal crashes were avoidable.

"We obviously don't want to add to that number."

Traffic had started to build from Monday, as children finished school, he said.

"The majority of people are driving reasonably well ... and are happy to go with the normal flow of traffic.

"But we do get those people who are more impatient, and are the ones we need to focus on."

But tickets should not have to be handed out to anyone, he said.

"We hope that people will self-regulate their speed. People should just appreciate that the speed limit is the speed limit."

Police will have an increased presence on the roads to keep people in line, he said.

Central District road policing manager Inspector Dave White said spotter planes would assist officers on the ground with traffic policing.

"We just want to try something a bit different to give us the edge. It makes people think and take that little bit more extra care."

Each plane would have an officer spotting for issues, then communicating with ground staff who would take action.

Mr White said the focus would be on drunk and speeding drivers, but other problems would be dealt with.

"If they see a slow driver holding up a queue of traffic we can send someone to help."

The Manawatu Standard