A driver spotted not wearing a seat belt in Masterton, while eating a kebab. PHOTO/WTA

HAYLEY GASTMEIER

hayley.gastmeier@age.co.nz

Police are cracking down on drivers not following basic safety rules, and there’s plenty to crack down on.

Official police statistics show Wairarapa is getting better at buckling up – but a check on drivers in the region tells  a different story.

The Times-Age saw more than 20 people driving without seatbelts in a 45-minute timeframe on Friday at Kuripuni.

Earlier in the week, over a 90-minute period in Solway, police caught four drink-drivers, and fined 18 drivers for not ensuring seatbelts were being worn, and five for using cellphones.

Wairarapa Area Commander Inspector Scott Miller said Wellington district’s Road Policing Prevention Team [RPPT] was active in the region at least once a week, which provided a snapshot of Wairarapa’s driving behaviour.

Wairarapa Road Safety Council manager Bruce Pauling said these figures were “very disappointing but not surprising”.

“Clearly, there are still many folks out there who seem to think the laws of physics in a crash don’t apply to them.”

He said so far this year there had been 19 alcohol-related crashes in the region, with nine of those involving injury.

Buckling up was a simple action that saved lives.

“Already this year we’ve had situations where occupants have been ejected from vehicles, sustaining death and serious injuries,” Pauling said.

At the High St and Chapel St roundabout at Kuripuni on Friday, the Times-Age witnessed 23 people without wearing seatbelts, and one person talking on his cellphone.

A few of those unrestrained were men driving fully-laden logging trucks with trailers.

Miller said seatbelt violations were a big problem in Wairarapa and there was no excuse for not wearing them.

People sitting in the back seat needed to be belted in too.

“It’s quite astonishing how many people are flung through car windows in a high-impact crash.”

He said police nationwide were cracking down on seatbelts, drunk and drugged drivers, cellphone-use, and speed.

With the RPPT in Wairarapa regularly these days, it was likely the region’s road statistics would go up.

While this would make the region appear like it had a bigger problem than in the past, it would lower the number of serious and fatal road crashes, which Miller said was the ultimate aim.

Road policing Constable Clint Rogers said parents needed to be responsible for keeping their children safe.

“Each week we have a few instances where kids aren’t restrained.

“Kids are really vulnerable, and they rely on mum and dad to keep them safe.

“We urge everyone to look after their loved ones.”

Rogers said not wearing a seatbelt was a factor in one third of road deaths.

In the year to June, 471 drivers in the Wairarapa were fined for seatbelt infringements.

The problem appears to have decreased significantly since the year to June in 2014, when 958 tickets were issued.

Drink-driving offences in the region have fluctuated between 200 and 267 over the past five years.

In the 12 months to June this year, people had been charged with drink driving 258 times, and eight charges have been laid over people driving while on drugs.

Cellphone offences have gone from 95 in the year to June 2014, to 135 in the year to June 2018.