This is what happens when you call *555 to report bad driving
Ashburton mum Annie King Holden feared for her young family's safety when a driver swerved and cut in front of her car this week.
Her daughter Samara, 10, and step-daughter Te Wairua, 14, were with her when the near-miss happened in Christchurch. King said she had noticed the other car was speeding and thought the driver must have "a death wish".
Holden captured the terrifying incident on her car's dash cam as she prepared to turn right on Aldwins Road just after noon.
"She went in front of me but on the other side. When the lights turned green, she waited for the truck to get close then turned," King said. "A split second and she would have had a head-on collision. [We] were just blown away."
Holden said she immediately called the police *555 line for reporting bad driving.
"They were no help at all. I told them what happened, gave them the registration and make of the car, the number of passengers," she said.
"They said they would send her a friendly warning. What? That's what made me mad."
Holden said she had expected police to send out a car and give the driver a ticket for dangerous driving because "she put me and my kids' lives at risk."
The mum believed police should put more priority on *555 calls.
Additionally, she wanted "a bit more follow-up about what action was taken."
WHAT THE POLICE SAY
When police were asked if they were required to action *555 calls, Inspector Mal Schwartfeger, Communications Centres National Operations Manager, said they endeavoured to act on all calls for assistance.
"The process regularly leads to successful interventions which potentially prevent tragic incidents involving death and serious injuries on our roads," he said.
However, not all resulted in a unit being dispatched. That depended on what the call was about, the time since the event occurred and the availability of police resources.
But even if a unit wasn't sent out, the information could help to determine future patrol patterns, he said.
So far in 2017, police had received 207,419 *555 calls. In 2016, they received 263,315 and in 2015, 293,554 calls.
That means in 2016 police received on average 719 calls to *555 every day.
Police didn't have figures available for the number of calls that resulted in a fine or charge.
They would get in touch with a caller to let them know the outcome if they could, but the sheer volume of *555 calls meant that wasn't always possible.
Schwartfeger said the reasons for calls ranged from relatively benign to severe.
"Approximately 61 per cent of calls on this line are road related calls such as car crashes; drivers overtaking across no passing lines or around a blind corner; driving under the influence of drink or drugs or excessive speed, through to issues such as hitch hikers on the motorway or objects on the road," he said.
"The remainder tend to be emergency calls, other requests for police, and matters best dealt with by other agencies."
The line was intended for reporting "road incidents which are urgent but not life-threatening", Schwartfeger said.
"This includes such things as non-injury crashes, erratic driving, traffic congestion, breakdowns and obstructions on the highway."
If what had been observed required an emergency response, such as a serious motor vehicle crash or someone's life was at imminent risk, people were advised to call 111.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU CALL *555
Your call to *555 will be answered by a Police Communicator in Auckland, Wellington or Christchurch. The police communicator will ask you three questions:
- Where are you (where are police needed)?
- How long ago did it happen?
- What's happening now?
They'll also confirm your name, address and contact details.
While you're being asked those questions, a police dispatcher will be passing this information through to the nearest available patrol to try and locate the vehicle you're calling about.
You may be asked more questions, such as whether the offence is still happening. They may ask for number plates or vehicle descriptions.
Police said in an emergency, it was "critical" to accurately describe how they could find you.
"We don't always know where you are, especially if you're calling from a mobile phone," Schwartfeger said.
"It may seem as if there are a lot of questions but our call takers are in direct contact with the dispatcher and if the situation warrants, a unit may have been dispatched and be on the way, whilst the call is still in progress."
Police designed this programme to advise drivers about unsafe or risky driving behaviour members of the public have observed and reported.
It was created for when the observer did not wish the offender to be prosecuted.
So far this year, police have received 30,976 Roadwatch complaints. In 2016, Police received 41,287.
A Roadwatch report was an informal complaint and members of the public had to contact a police station if they wanted to make a formal complaint.