Police urge caution on roads during Matariki weekend


(INL Stock Image)

Praneeta Mahajan
Hamilton, June 27, 2024

As New Zealand prepares to celebrate Matariki, police are issuing a stern warning to motorists: drive safely, or face the consequences. Authorities will be out in force over the long weekend to ensure everyone reaches their destinations without incident.

A significant police presence will patrol roads nationwide, focusing on various unsafe driving behaviours. These include unrestrained occupants, drivers impaired by alcohol, drugs, or fatigue, drivers distracted by mobile phones, and speeding vehicles.

Inspector Dan Mattison, Acting Director of Road Policing, emphasised that while most people drive responsibly, a small minority continues to put lives at risk. “Those who deliberately endanger lives through dangerous behaviours on our roads can expect to be ticketed or face other enforcement actions if caught,” he said.

Inspector Mattison stressed that police are committed to road safety not just during Matariki but year-round. “Our dedicated teams across Aotearoa New Zealand work tirelessly to reduce harm on our roads. Most people we encounter drive safely, but we still see too many pushing the limits of safety and acceptability.”

He urged drivers to think of their loved ones before taking risks. “We do not want to be the ones telling someone their partner or family member has been in a crash. Nothing is worth risking your life for.”

Districts across the country have plans in place ahead of the long weekend. In various areas, police have collaborated with road safety partners to educate and promote safe behaviours when traveling on the road.

Watch a video message from the New Zealand Police.

Increased Police Patrols and Focus Areas

As Matariki, a significant time of reflection and remembrance in New Zealand, approaches, the police are taking proactive measures to ensure road safety. This year, there will be an unprecedented increase in police patrols across the nation, with a concentrated effort on deterring unsafe driving practices. The focus will be on several key areas that have been identified as major contributors to road accidents.

One primary concern is the issue of unrestrained occupants. Despite numerous campaigns and clear laws regarding seat belt use, there are still individuals who neglect this basic safety measure. Police will be vigilant in identifying and penalising those who fail to wear seat belts or properly restrain passengers, including children.

Impaired driving remains a significant threat to road safety. Police will conduct random breath tests and drug testing to catch those driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Fatigue is another factor that impairs driving ability, and officers will be on the lookout for signs of tiredness in drivers, advising rest when necessary.

The prevalence of mobile phones has introduced a new risk on the roads. Distracted driving, particularly due to mobile phone use, has become a common cause of accidents. Police will employ various strategies to catch and penalise drivers using their phones while driving.

Speeding continues to be a major issue, with many drivers exceeding speed limits, especially during long weekends. The police will use speed cameras and on-road patrols to monitor and enforce speed limits rigorously.

Commitment to Year-Round Road Safety

Inspector Mattison highlighted the ongoing commitment of police to road safety beyond just the Matariki weekend. “Our dedicated teams across Aotearoa New Zealand work tirelessly to reduce harm on our roads. Most people we encounter drive safely, but we still see too many pushing the limits of safety and acceptability,” he said.

The efforts to enhance road safety involve extensive collaboration with various road safety partners. These partnerships focus on educating the public about safe driving practices and promoting a culture of responsibility on the roads. Educational campaigns are often rolled out in the lead-up to major holidays and long weekends to remind drivers of the importance of road safety.

Inspector Mattison urged all drivers to think about their loved ones before taking unnecessary risks on the road. “We do not want to be the ones telling someone their partner or family member has been in a crash. Nothing is worth risking your life for,” he emphasized.

Travel Planning and Road Safety Awareness

Motorists can expect a visible police presence on the roads day and night as officers work to deter unsafe driving behaviours. “Our officers and road safety partners are undertaking a large amount of work to ensure the safety of everyone on our roads. Matariki is often a time of reflection and remembering loved ones; we do not want to see more families mourning someone dear to them due to a road crash that could have been avoided,” says Inspector Mattison.

To help ensure a safe journey, travellers are advised to plan their trips meticulously. The New Zealand Transport Agency Waka Kotahi’s Journey Planner tool is an invaluable resource, providing travel time information and updates on any delays, roadworks, or closures. This tool can help drivers avoid unexpected delays and plan rest stops to combat fatigue.

The Matariki weekend holiday period starts at 4pm on Thursday, June 27, 2024 and ends at 6am on Monday, July 1, 2024. During this time, police will be particularly vigilant, but the message of road safety extends beyond these dates. By planning ahead and adhering to safe driving practices, motorists can contribute to a safer travel environment for everyone.

As the nation comes together to celebrate Matariki, let it also be a time to commit to safer roads and responsible driving.

Praneeta Mahajan is an Indian Newslink reporter based in Hamilton.

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