Police car crashes chalk up $11m bill

Crashes involving police cars have cost the New Zealand police force nearly $11 million over the past four years, new figures reveal.

The figures, released to The Press under the Official Information Act, show in that time-frame 76 police vehicles were written-off and another 2989 needed costly repairs as a result of police crashes.

In the last financial year alone police wrote-off 27 vehicles at a cost of nearly $1.2m and spent another $1.8m on repairing pranged vehicles.

The most police crashes (121) were recorded in the Waitemata district but the Canterbury district was not far behind, notching up 112 crashes involving police vehicles between July 2012 and June 2013, at a cost of $341,144.

Police fleet management group manager Rob Morgan said the nearly $11m spent on vehicle repairs and replacements over the past four years included repairs to third-party vehicles in crashes where police were deemed to be at fault.

He acknowledged the number of vehicles written-off in the last financial year had risen by more than 30 per cent compared with the previous year, but said the number of incidents for the year had dropped (from 1009 to 926).

No single factor for the increase in write-offs could be identified, Morgan said. "Police monitor crashes carefully and are alert to any training or policy issues that might be disclosed in doing so."

Commenting on the figures, Labour's police spokeswoman Jacinda Ardern said she had no doubt that police would be concerned by the costs.

"They have faced consistent cuts to their budget in real terms over the past few years, meaning even vehicle repairs will be causing a strain. Add to that the fact that these cuts have meant that police have had to cut their training budget and you potentially have a vicious cycle," Ardern said.

Police Association vice-president Luke Shadbolt dismissed any suggestion that inadequate driver training might be behind the high cost of vehicle crashes, saying police now had to undertake regular driver assessments that included elements of defensive driving.

The cost of car repairs had gone up across the board in recent years and even small "fender benders" cost a lot to fix up, which partly explained the higher bills the police department was facing.

The very nature of the job meant police vehicles were more likely to be involved in crashes than vehicles in other company fleets, he said. "We're on the road 24/7 and often at high speeds so there is always going to be incidents that occur."

The Press