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Safety belt compliance targeted

Safety belt offences in Wairarapa have increased in the last quarter. PHOTO/STOCK.ADOBE.COM

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Safety belt offences in Wairarapa increased by 38 per cent in the three-month period ended September this year.

Data made public by New Zealand Police showed 85 restraint offences were recorded in the three-month period from April to June this year. That number grew to 117 offences in the July-September period.

From March 23 to May 13, New Zealand was under lockdown at Alert Levels 3 and 4.

The lockdown resulted in fewer cars on the road, and therefore fewer restraint offences in the April-June period compared with the same period in 2019.

However, coming out of the lockdown, the increase in restraint offences in Wairarapa outpaced the rest of the country. Police figures showed a 17 per cent increase nationwide, while Wairarapa offences increased by 38 per cent.

A similar trend has emerged over the past three years.

In 2018, Wairarapa’s restraint offences increased by 46 per centfrom the April-June period to the July-September period. Nationwide, these offences had increased by just 18 per cent.

Last year, Wairarapa’s offences increased 57 per cent between the two periods, while the national increase was just 26 per cent.

The road safety strategy employed by New Zealand Police could partially explain these jumps from period to period.

‘Operation Five’ set a target within the road policing action plan 2018-2021 to reduce the number of road deaths by five per cent every year.

Part of the strategy was to target one specific behaviour contributing to road deaths each month.

Key targets were the use of restraints, impaired driving, distracted driving, and speed.

Wairarapa Road Safety Council manager Bruce Pauling said that during any of these campaigns, larger numbers of drivers would be caught not wearing their restraints, due to the larger numbers of police
on the roads.

During these operations, ‘spotter’ officers would be positioned along the road to observe non-complying vehicle occupants and radio ahead to a ‘stopper’ officer.

For example, an operation running from October 12-22 targeted people using cell phones.

On top of the 105 notices issued for illegal uses of phones, the operation also caught 76 unrestrained drivers and occupants.

While offences had increased from April-June to July-September, the number of offences recorded in both periods was fewer than last year.

Two hundred and twenty-five restraint offences were recorded in July-September 2019, decreasing 48 per cent to 117 offences in the same period this year; 1104 offences were recorded in the 12 months to September 2019, dropping 50 per cent to 553 offences in the 12 months to September 2020.

Though the data appeared to be encouraging, Pauling said, “There is still a real issue with locals not belting up, with South Wairarapa still well below the national compliance rate of around 98 per cent.

“It’s difficult to fathom why people play Russian roulette and ignore the simplest safety device in their vehicle … It takes five seconds to put a seatbelt on, and it increases your survival in a crash by more than 60 per cent.”

Pauling said he would be encouraging police to again focus on seatbelt offending across Wairarapa in the New Year.

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