Milford traffic safety check results stun staff

NEIL RATLEY
Last updated 05:00 13/02/2013

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Authorities are alarmed at the number of young children not secured in child restraint seats and drivers and passengers failing to wear seatbelts on the first day of a week-long traffic blitz between Queenstown and Milford Sound.

NZ Transport Agency and police are targeting drivers along the popular tourist route this week.

The agency's Otago-Southland access and use spokesman, Dermot Harris, said on its first day, the operation highlighted an alarming number of young children travelling in vehicles not in appropriate child restraint seats.

Also concerning was the number of drivers and passengers stopped for not wearing seatbelts, he said. The drivers of those vehicles had been issued with offence notices.

The joint NZ Transport Agency and Police Commercial Vehicle Investigation Unit operation was being carried out during the Chinese New Year period, one of the busiest times of the year on the Milford road, Mr Harris said.

"Traffic on the Milford road increases from about 340 vehicles per day to more than 500 during this busy period," he said.

"That is why we chose this period to ensure we pass on the road safety message to as many motorists using the road as we can."

The operation also netted several rental vehicles with insufficient tyre tread and the agency would be following up the issue with the rental companies concerned, Mr Harris said.

Three buses were also found to have maintenance issues and were forced to fix the problems before being allowed back on the road, he said.

Southern District road policing manager Inspector Andrew Burns said he did not have the exact number of infringement notices handed out but it was concerning to hear road users were breaking the law.

The road was identified as high risk, which meant failing to wear a seatbelt, safely securing young children and vehicle maintenance issues added to the chances of injury, he said.

"The results definitely warrant authorities being out there."

Infringements could be attributed in part to cultural differences in the law but it was the responsibility of visitors to New Zealand to be informed, Mr Burns said. Most rental car companies provided information about driver and passenger responsibilities and tourists should take advantage of the information.

Mr Burns also recommended tourists with young children make sure a child restraint seat was provided when hiring cars.

Rental car companies were also responsible for the maintenance of their fleet and he expected the NZ Transport Agency to take action against any companies failing to provide safe vehicles, Mr Burns said.

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