Police to beef up presence
Waikato motorists can expect to encounter more police checkpoints and more patrolling police cars on the region's roads.
That was one of the main points raised by Waikato district road policing manager Inspector Freda Grace during a presentation to the Waikato Regional Council's public transport committee yesterday, on steps being taken to reduce the road toll.
"There will be more checkpoints and more being generally visible," she said.
Grace's presentation had grim overtones, taking place just a couple of days after the latest fatality on the region's roads.
Jasmine Clothier, 16, was killed in a car crash on the Kaimai Range highway on Saturday afternoon. She was a passenger in a vehicle involved in a collision with another car about 4pm.
Clothier's recent death was not lost on many of the assembled mayors and councillors from around the region, including Matamata-Piako Mayor Jan Barnes, who said she had her doubts on whether the intermittent nature of the passing lanes on the western side of the ranges was contributing to driver impatience - and prompting rash moves from those behind the wheel.
"Everyone wants to pass, but not everyone can as you are coming down that hill."
Grace told the meeting there had now been 24 fatal crashes in the Waikato so far this year, and 50 serious injury crashes.
"We classify serious injuries as life-changing injuries."
The crashes had been caused by a combination of factors, however excessive speed, driver distraction, fatigue, seatbelts not being worn and the effects of alcohol and drugs were the most frequent influences.
In the Waikato the police focus was trained on speed, alcohol and seatbelt use in particular, she said.
Waikato district Mayor Allan Sanson said his main concern was the danger posed by repeat drink drivers, who were caught and processed by the courts but returned to their previous bad behaviour soon after.
Hamilton City councillor Leo Tooman said there was reason to feel good because attitudes toward drink driving had improved markedly over the last 40 years.
"If we kept going the way we were in the '70s we would have around 3000 deaths a year on our roads.
"It used to be acceptable to drink and drive . . . at one time they would open up the liquor cabinet after these council meetings. I think we have done a hell of a good job and we have come a hell of a long way in a relatively short space of time. We need to celebrate the successes we have had."