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February 2009
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State Highway safety blitzed

A South Island-wide police operation swung into action in February. Operation Tāhi is helping make State Highway One a safer place to drive, as it cycles through key traffic target areas in a sustained five-month effort.

The operation kicked off by addressing speeds around schools. There are 75 schools and childcare centres on or within 250m of State Highway One in the South Island – 13 in Tasman, 25 in Canterbury and 37 in Southern districts.

“The safety of children on our roads is always a prime concern, and is highlighted in February as they head back to school after the holidays,” says acting Canterbury Road Policing Manger, Senior Sergeant Neville Hyland. “Given the surprisingly high number of schools on or near State Highway One, plus the high traffic volumes and speed associated with this route, we wanted to start Operation Tāhi by reminding all drivers to take extra care around schools at this time.”

Another phase will target alcohol, and the 88 pubs and hotels that lie along the patch of State Highway One – 21 in Tasman, 28 in Canterbury and 39 in Southern.

“The operation will move on through several phases, not just speed, alcohol and drugs, but also careless and dangerous driving, high-risk and disqualified drivers, and those not wearing seat belts,” says Neville. “Then we’ll start over again, and cycle through repeatedly for five months.”

The project will see an unprecedented level of cooperation between traffic units, and will involve staff from Tasman, Canterbury and Southern districts and the Commercial Vehicle Investigation Unit.

“Operation Tāhi combines the resources of all South Island traffic policing units, and we’re working closely together to bring a coordinated attack on high-risk driving,” says Tasman Road Policing Manager, Inspector Hugh Flower.

Research shows that Thursday, Friday and Saturday have a higher number of crashes than the rest of the week, peaking on Friday between 12 noon and 3pm.

“It’s no surprise that this corresponds with the days and times that we see peaks for speeding, and careless and dangerous driving,” says acting Southern Road Policing Manager, Senior Sergeant Stephen Larking. “Research also tells us that average urban speeds have not been dropping in line with the open road trend of recent years, particularly in Canterbury and Southland, so we’ll also focus on places where State Highway One passes through cities and small towns.”

Another area to come under scrutiny is heavy motor vehicle (HMV) traffic.

Commercial Vehicle Investigation Unit South Island Manager, Senior Sergeant Warren Newbury, says that although crashes involving HMVs made up only 14 per cent of all South Island State Highway One crashes from February to June 2004 to 2008, they accounted for half of the fatalities.

“Trucks hit harder, so a crash involving a truck and a car is more likely to result in death or serious injury,” says Warren. “This is why it’s so important to ensure our HMV fleet is complying with the rules of the road, and why we’re looking closely at HMV driver behaviour and vehicle standards.”

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