Calls to police *555 line ring hot over holidays

Whether it's crashes, animals on the road, vehicles speeding, or people dobbing in their drunken spouses as they watch the tail-lights recede, the police *555 line was ringing hot in the Central District during the Christmas holidays.

There were 291 traffic events reported through the *555 line in 10 days from December 24 to January 2 in the Central District. About 250 of those phone calls related to traffic offences, but there were also reports of street racing, breakdowns or blockages, crashes and animals on the roads.

The *555 line is a free method of reporting urgent but non life-threatening road incidents such as non-injury crashes, erratic driving, traffic congestion, breakdowns and obstructions on the highway.

Calls to the line from drivers in the Central District leapt as the year wound down, rising from 630 in November 2013 to 808 in the festive month.

Kicking off the calls for the Christmas period in the Central District was a report of a vehicle that had "skidded onto the side of the road" in Aokautere about 4.26pm.

From there, reports varied in subject matter, including one expressing concern that an "old man [who] is too confused to drive" was behind the wheel near Levin, and another who spotted a "small pink pig" running on the road in Foxton.

Motorists travelling through Otaki prompted the most calls through the holiday period (25), followed closely by Levin (23).

Whanganui, Woodville and Marton rounded out the top five. Palmerston North was the site of a meagre three reports.

Acting road policing manager Senior Sergeant Kris Burbery said the increase in calls to the line during December was likely a combination of more drivers on the road, both to report concerning behaviour and to commit it, and awareness campaigns of the service.

"I think it's great we have that facility and a whole lot of other people out there who are our eyes and ears.

"When we say road safety is everyone's responsibility this is part of that responsibility."

Responses to the calls were prioritised and depended on where the nearest officer was and what they were doing, but drivers at the centre of the complaints could expect anything from a warning to a fine. Mr Burbery was not surprised that Otaki had the most calls, given that the highway through the town was "the neck of the funnel", but police knew where the trouble spots were and they were stationed accordingly, he said.

It was important that people balanced the risk of making the call with the risk they might pose to other drivers or themselves, should they decide to tail a dodgy driver.

Manawatu Standard