Number of cycle helmet fines drops from 11,000 to 5500 in two years
The number of cyclists fined for not wearing a helmet has halved in the past two years, with police saying it is a low priority offence.
Figures provided under the Official Information Act showed 5544 people were fined for failing to wear a helmet in the 2015-16 financial year, down from 8132 fines in 2014-15 and 11,154 in 2013-14.
Assistant commissioner Dave Cliff said the drop-off was due to police prioritising other road safety crimes, as well as more people wearing helmets.
Monitoring helmet use was "one of the things that's on the list for our people to keep an eye on", Cliff said.
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"The bigger priorities are drug and alcohol abuse, failing to wear safety belts, [and] speeding."
New Zealand and Australia are the only two countries in the world to enforce a mandatory helmet law.
Kiwis face a $55 fine for not wearing a helmet or not having their helmet securely fastened.
Cycle Action Network NZ welcomed the decrease in helmet fines and described the mandatory law as a "failed policy".
"I think it's correctly prioritised by police as a low priority," the group's project manager Patrick Morgan said.
There was nothing to suggest that enforcing compulsory helmet use improved cycle safety, he said.
"That's why it's rejected by almost every country."
Morgan said the focus needed to be on encouraging more people to ride bikes and to expand the network of safe, separated cycleways.
"I think [the government is] less interested in whether people are wearing helmets than they are in building great cycleways. And that's good news.
"I think correctly we've moved on to investing in safer cycleways, that is significant progress."
The compulsory helmet law was introduced in 1994 and has remained untouched with no official government review, despite multiple calls from lobby groups.
Transport consultant and member of the New Zealand Cycle Safety Panel, Glen Koorey, said there was little political appetite for change.
"I think particularly with the general public, the problem is the first instinct is people think 'yeah if I put a helmet on that should be a good thing so the law should be a good thing', without necessarily thinking through the other unintended implications of the law," he said.
"I suspect there's almost a bit of a Stockholm syndrome in New Zealand, we've had it for 20-odd years and people have grown up with it, it is what it is.
"People haven't really thought about what it would be like if we didn't have it."
Associate transport minister David Bennett said in a statement the mandatory helmet law was working well and was not up for debate.
"The Cycle Safety Panel report of December 2014 also supported the mandatory use of cycle helmets," he said.
Bennett said since the law was brought in there had been a decrease in hospitalised head injuries from cycle accidents.
A Ministry of Transport spokeswoman said there were no plans to review the cycle helmet law.