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Published: 2003-12-16 00:00:00

That police officer who pulls you over on the way to your holiday break may just have a cuppa and a snack for you instead of a ticket.

Police traffic patrols will be targeting motorists on State Highway 1 between Bombay and Waiouru over the next couple of months looking for those drivers who may be affected by tiredness. Those stopped for other offences, such as speeding, could find themselves with a $4 voucher to buy a cup of coffee and something to eat at the next service station - as well as a speeding ticket.

Taupo District Council Road Safety Co-ordinator Mal Kernot has been working with Environment Waikato, South Waikato, Waipa and Waikato district councils to provide ‘Fatigue Cheques’ training for police covering State Highway One. If an officer identifies a tired driver on the road, the driver can be given a “cheque” valid for the day at the nearest BP Connect or BP2Go Service Station to take a break and spend the money on refreshments.

At Turangi, Huntly and Mercer, where there are no BP stations with refreshment facilities, Shell and Mobil stations will redeem the vouchers. The vehicle registration number will also be noted on the “cheque butt”.

Police say fatigue is a major factor in road crashes with “poor observation” listed as a cause in 33 percent of injury crashes in 2001. The statistics are even worse on State High One – 44 percent of all crashes in the Taupo Police Area had poor observation as a factor.
The number of crashes where the driver admitted falling asleep at the wheel or being excessively tired was substantially higher than expected.

Seven people died in these crashes and 15 were seriously injured.

From 1998 – 2002 fatigue was a catalyst in 152 crashes, and a number of places along the highway are regular sites for fatigue-related crashes.

Mr Kernot said fatigue as a crash cause had typically been side stepped due to the difficulties in establishing an accurate measure.

“The number of crashes along State Highway 1 where the driver has admitted to suffering from a fatigue-related impairment before crashing is startling. Of the 152 fatigue-related crashes, drivers in 110 actually admitted to falling asleep, or their passengers said they had.

Environment Waikato Regional Road Safety Committee Chairman David Peart said people needed to be aware of the dangers of driving tired.

“Hopefully we can do something practical to prevent crashes when people head off on their summer breaks.”

The Fatigue Cheques campaign will be launched at a mid-day function at the Tokoroa Police Station on Monday, December 22, with South Waikato Mayor Gordon Blake and the heads of the neighbouring police districts of Hamilton, Rotorua and Central Districts attending.