Minister finally up to speed on police road safety shortcomings

“Some of the messaging has been confusing,” Woodhouse concedes as he calls for review.

Police Minister Michael Woodhouse has finally caught up with the sentiment of NBR subscribers (and, reportedly, the wider New Zealand public) regarding the effectiveness of the NZ Police’s most recent road safety and enforcement campaign.

On Monday night Mr Woodhouse announced he has asked the police to officially review the public messages that underpinned the Christmas and New Year campaign, saying he has "received considerable public feedback that the speed tolerance message was confusing, which has led to some strong public opinions”.

Although police apparently had their usual discretion over whether to ticket those going up to 4km over the speed limit during the holiday period, many motorists believed there was a zero tolerance policy in force – presumably due emphatic statements that  “Police's message is clear: anything over the limit is speeding. All speeding will be stopped.”

Critics have been lining up to detail the shortcomings of the campaign, including road safety campaigner and editor Clive Matthew-Wilson, who says the police strategy for trying to lower the road toll by ticketing ordinary motorists hasn't worked because ordinary motorists have never really been the problem.   

Most of the carnage on NZ roads are caused by “a tiny minority who are largely alienated from mainstream life”, says Mr Matthew-Wilson, who likens ticketing otherwise law abiding families travelling a few kilometres over the speed limit to “trying to stop bank robberies by targeting shoplifting”.

Others joining the fray include NZ First police spokesman Ron Mark, who has called the policy “ridiculous and ineffective” and said it has made car journeys more stressful and motorists “fearful of the police”, while the AA’s spokesman Mike Noon has questioned whether the police approach was the best strategy to reduce the road toll.

Seventeen people died on the roads over the official Christmas holiday road toll period, compared to seven last year and six the year before.

Admitting that “some of the messaging has been confusing”, Mr Woodhouse has suggested that what the police were trying to communicate is that they have “zero tolerance for bad driving behaviour that leads to death and injury on our roads”.

Mr Woodhouse says he has asked that the police review of its public messages be completed in time for any changes to be made before the Easter holiday period.

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