Yesterday a tragedy occurred in Nelson that was completely avoidable. A person in a stolen car made and his companion made the mistake of trying to flee the Police. Unfortunately in doing so, they crossed the centre line at speed in the vehicle and crashed into an oncoming car, killing the innocent driver of the other vehicle as well.
Every year people make the mistake of fleeing from the Police. Sometimes they get away. Sometimes they get caught and sometimes it all ends in tragedy either because the Police continued a chase they later admitted should have been abandoned, or more often, it has been abandoned, but the fleeing vehicle crashes anyway.
So, now, we have three funerals in the early stages of being planned, because one person fled from the Police.
Common sense as well as Police orders require anyone signalled by the Police to stop, to do so. Police admitted last year that about 300 fleeing driver incidents happened a month or about 10 a day; 3650 a year.
I believe that a few potential causes for such behaviour exist and that they need to be acted on:
- Under funding the traffic cops to monitor peoples behaviour on the roads. The division of the Police dedicated to the roads was wound up under the National led Government of Prime Minister Jim Bolger.
- The absence of an effective deterrent may make people think that all they will be given is the equivalent of a wet bus ticket slapped on their wrist with no consequences
- Parental responsibility needs more legal emphasis on it – parents need to make sure their youngsters understand that running from the cops is just going to make it worse for them when they get caught
There are steps that can be taken. Every person undertaking driving instruction should at some point be made to attend a defensive driving course and as a part of that, sit a test that demonstrates knowledge of defensive driving. As part of that course, a Police officer should talk to the participants and explain to them their legal responsibilities and what will happen if they are not upheld.
Another step is radically tightening the deterrent. I suggest automatic loss of their driver licence for a year or one month in jail. Given the gravity with which society views people who have done jail time and/or lost their licence for traffic offences, the decline of their social status, this will – if made clear to all New Zealanders – make the vast majority think twice before committing such a daft act. Those that don’t are the ones the proverbial book should be thrown at.