Facebook checkpoint alerts 'misguided' - police

KATHRYN KING
Last updated 14:00 30/01/2014

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A Palmerston North Facebook page alerting drivers to the location of police checkpoints has been slammed by police as "misguided" and "disappointing".

The page, "Booze bus & cop stopz palmy north", was created by Palmerston North man Toby Lepper, 25, in February last year, and has more than 700 members.

The premise of the page is simple - "everytime you go through or see a booze bus or cop stop, post in time & location for the ones that can't afford to be caught or have to avoid them", it explains.

Lepper, who also goes by Toby Hekax, said yesterday he believed the page was a first for Palmerston North, and he created it after seeing similar pages.

He was "quite surprised" when the group reached 500 members, but he had since added a number of new administrators, and it continued to grow.

As a convicted drink-driver who is indefinitely disqualified from driving, he did not contribute to the page much himself, and mostly just "let it run", he said.

Lepper said he had copped some flak from people accusing him of helping drink-drivers, and this did trouble him somewhat.

"It got me wondering, but that wasn't my intention at all of the group."

The page was for people who couldn't afford a fine if they were caught driving without a registered or warranted car, or were about to run out of demerit points, he said.

A car might not be warranted because of a tyre, or rust, but otherwise be mechanically sound, but he didn't feel he could comment on those situations, he said.

When asked if it concerned him that it could be used by drunk drivers, he replied, "kind of".

"I can't really stop someone from drink-driving . . . I can't be responsible for that really, but I see what you mean."

He had never been spoken to by police about the page, but would take it down if it would get him "in trouble".

National road policing manager Superintendent Carey Griffiths said the attitude of people responsible for such pages was disappointing, given that two people on average died every week in crashes involving alcohol, and another 40 were injured or maimed.

"Anyone who encourages someone who may be drunk or drugged behind the wheel to avoid police detection should think long and hard about how they would feel if that person then went on to kill or maim someone in their family or one of their friends."

Students Against Driving Drunk chief executive Anna Braidwood also expressed disappointment at such sites. She urged contributors to consider their potential results.

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"While the admins and members of these pages might feel they are providing a service, they are actually creating the potential for real harm to be caused."

They could easily detour an unsafe driver or an unsafe vehicle away from a checkpoint that would safely remove them from the road, and instead send them crashing into innocent road users, maybe even someone they knew, she said.

"If your vehicle is unsafe or if you are driving dangerously you deserve to be taken off the road, end of story," she said.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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