Watching for trouble on the roads
Go for a drive inside Constable Dave Rogers' patrol car and you'll see how little road rules mean to some people.
We pull out of the Waikato road police headquarters in Te Rapa and Rogers explains his mind frame when he's cruising the streets.
"You're listening to the radio to see what's happening. You're monitoring vehicles around you. You're operating the radar seeing what speed they're doing, and generally as they're coming past you you're looking at the driver - are you wearing your seatbelt? Are you looking down at your lap texting? - You're monitoring, really."
Rogers is a hell of a monitor.
We head south onto the Avalon Drive Bypass at 9.46am. There's traffic everywhere. Rogers monitors. We drive through the roundabout onto Lincoln St, monitoring. As we pass the dump entrance Rogers' eagle eyes lock onto an exiting driver who's leaning too far forward.
"He's not wearing a seatbelt."
Rogers veers right into a U-turn. Seconds later the unrestrained fellow is idling on the shoulder, awaiting Rogers' attention. A few questions and two instantly printed tickets later and Rogers explains the fellow's predicament.
The man's licence suspension had lapsed and it was yet to be reissued - that's a $400 fine unless he gets it within 28 days, and $150 for no seatbelt. Rogers gave the guy an hour to get home until his driving prohibition kicked in.
After punching his notes into a smart device that can tell him just about everything about any driver, we head north. We enter the roundabout again, monitoring. There, there's a child in a front seat without a belt on, Rogers says. He pulls up behind the car at the Forest Lake lights and the 14-year-old's arm goes up to the strap, no doubt at request of his mother who was at the wheel.
They pull over on Ellicott Rd. It's raining now. Another idle Thursday in Nawton. Rogers dons his coat at 10.30am and heads over. This is the most dangerous part of his job - he never knows who or what is inside. The woman says she was driving her son to school and on the way she collects a $150 fine for not buckling him in. Rogers gives her a lesson on safety, returns to the patrol car and taps away on his device, writing the mother's record.
Everyone slows down and obeys the rules when they spot those red and blue lights flashing, he says. Even here, parked on Ellicott Rd, is making a difference, he reckons. We do a U-turn and stop at the lights, monitoring. On cue, a rag-tag silver Subaru Legacy turns right from Forest Lake Rd onto Avalon Dr. We stalk the driver and he pulls over off Breckons Ave. There's a 16-year-old with an attitude and a red cap behind the wheel. It's 10.57am. Rogers walks over, hat on, and discovers the boy's learner licence was issued on April 9, 2014. There's already 35 demerit points to his name. His girlfriend, also a learner, is the passenger. Rogers prints out a ticket and the teen screws it up and tosses it on the floor. As the driver goes to leave he nearly crashes into a passing van, perfectly illustrating, Rogers says, why licences are graduated.
Many people think of driving as a right instead of the privilege it is, Rogers says. The boy was ordered to go straight home. We drive back to base and park an hour and a half later. Rogers gets a call - the boy in the red cap has been pulled over again and he's not happy about it.