Wellington Roads Safer Since Merger

  • Jack Elder

Road safety in Wellington has improved dramatically since the merger of the Police and the Ministry of Transport traffic branch in 1992, Police Minister Jack Elder said today.

The Minister was responding to the threat by Wellington Mayor Mark Blumsky to sue the Government for more designated traffic police staff in the city.

"Mr Blumsky should be aware that the new system for road safety, in which all Police staff have a responsibility for enforcement, has proved to be much more effective than the old division of responsibility."

Mr Elder said the Wellington City Council had been running very successful road safety initiatives itself, and other local bodies could learn from such programmes as the Knights of the Road, which recognises high standards in professional drivers.

Wellington has also been a leader in developing safer road markings and signs, and in a recent move has proposed drawing attention to red light runners.

"A combination of Police and Council activities has seen Wellington streets becoming significantly safer in recent years," Mr Elder said.

In 1991, the year before the amalgamation, there were 532 crashes in Wellington City resulting in injury or fatality. This total fell to 341 in 1996. The number of people injured or killed on Wellington roads over the same period fell from 668 to 426.

"Mr Blumsky is quoted as saying he believes the new enforcement regime is having a serious impact on the city. I find it hard to call a fall of 242 people being injured or killed as a 'serious impact'.

"I would describe it as a magnificent achievement, and a resounding endorsement of the Police strategy," Mr Elder said.

Mr Blumsky's complaint that the number of tickets issued for driving infringements had fallen since the merger is not a valid measure of road safety, the Minister said.

"The Police have introduced a range of road safety initiatives, including checkpoints, compulsory breath testing and speed cameras.

"While there are fewer Police staff with road safety as their prime responsibility, the fact that all staff have some responsibility for traffic enforcement has meant Wellington police now deliver a better and more comprehensive road safety service than in the past."

Police statistics show that in 1996, Wellington police spent 88,950 hours on road safety, time equivalent to 56 full-time officers.

"This compares with the 36 traffic officers Mr Blumsky is calling for," Mr Elder said.

The Minister had met with Police senior management to discuss Wellington's traffic policing, and concluded all parties could take credit for the increase in safety.

"The Police, Council and motorists have combined to make Wellington one of the safest places in the country to use the road. I see no need for an estimated $20,000 of ratepayers money to be spent on a legal challenge to a system that is working extremely well."