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Published: 2003-05-13 00:00:00

The number of road crashes in the Waikato have undergone a significant drop over the past five years, the Regional Road Safety Subcommittee heard this week.

Police Inspector Leo Tooman said the number of 15 to 19 year olds involved in crashes had dropped markedly between 1998 – 2002 and reductions were significant across all age groups. There had been a slight increase in the number of victims aged 10 to 14, who were likely to be passengers, and there was a significant ethnic issue in passengers using seat belts, he said.

Major factors involved in crashes included poor observation, speed, roading factors and fatigue, with a slight drop in alcohol as a factor. Crashes were more likely between 3pm to 6pm and at weekends when there was more traffic on the road.

The new ‘boy racer’ legislation would given police an enforcement arm with more ‘teeth’, but it was not a silver bullet, Inspector Tooman said.

“If we were all honest about it, boy racers have been around since we were boys, but the vehicles then did not have nearly the capacity they have today.”

Losing their ‘pride and joy’ for 28 days was a powerful tool. Incidents of “an exhibition of speed” involving death or injury had penalties of up to a year’s jail and a $20,000 fine. Incidents without injury, ‘donuts’ and burnouts without injury had a six month jail penalty and $4500 fine, while those where injury or death occurred had a five year jail term and $20,000 fine.

He said most offenders were 19 or 20, often driving expensive vehicles worth $30,000-$40,000.

“A culture has developed in our community and it is highly organised and sophisticated. They have scanners to know where enforcement is and use cell phones which can contact 1000 people at once to organise a venue.”

Repeat offences within four years had real ‘teeth’ with the court required to confiscate the vehicle.