Police see red at drivers 'pushing the orange light'

OLIVIA WANNAN
Last updated 05:00 13/01/2014

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Police are cracking down on red-light runners after an apparent increase in crashes caused by drivers running the red.

New Zealand Transport Agency figures released under the Official Information Act show that in 2012 there were 47 "red-light" crashes in the capital, and 43 in the first nine months of 2013.

In October Wellington taxi driver Bililigne Gebretsadik was found not guilty of three charges of careless driving causing the death of his unborn child, the first case of its kind.

Police said Gebretsadik ran the red light at the complicated intersection of Adelaide Rd and John and Riddiford streets in Newtown.

His pregnant wife was injured in the accident and their baby died after she had an emergency caesarean section.

NZTA road safety director Ernst Zollner said "running the red" usually occurred in lower-speed areas of the city, and so tended to cause less severe crashes with fewer injuries.

Wellington district road policing manager Donna Laban said the behaviour was still of concern.

"Pedestrians and cyclists getting hit by cars risk serious injuries if not fatalities, and motorists hit side-on are at a high risk of serious injury as well," she said.

"It's been a focus for us over the last few months. What we're seeing is people really pushing that orange light."

In the year to July police issued 848 tickets to Wellington motorists for not stopping on the red and 89 for not stopping on the orange signal.

Laban declined to comment on any increase in this behaviour, but said members of the public frequently contacted police complaining about drivers, cyclists and pedestrians failing to stop at a red signal.

The issue could often worsen during the holiday period as high volumes of traffic increased people's frustration.

"What we're asking for is patience - I know that can be hard. People need to be aware they must stop if they have time to stop at an orange light."

Wellington City Council transport portfolio leader Andy Foster expected metropolitan police would have a new tool to fight red-light running within the year - red-light cameras. "We're talking about 250 locations around the country."

A trial in Auckland showed cameras significantly reduced the number of crashes and the injuries received in accidents, he said.

"On some sequences, you see people running red lights almost every cycle."

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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