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What police don't want you to know about new unmarked highway patrol vehicles

Paul from Pukete

What police don't want you to know about new unmarked highway patrol vehicles
Waikato road policing manager Inspector Jeff Penno with one of the new unmarked fleet vehicles.
Waikato road policing manager Inspector Jeff Penno with one of the new unmarked fleet vehicles.

Waikato police have a new set of unmarked highway patrol vehicles that are ready to get people anywhere, anytime.

It’s the first time these vehicles have been deployed in New Zealand and all they want you to know about them is they are SUVs.

Road policing manager Inspector Jeff Penno would not disclose how many of the vehicles there were, what variety of colours there were, and he did not want the make and model shared.

All he wanted people to know was if they were sitting at the lights texting, speeding, or not wearing a seatbelt, they would see you before you would see them.

* Waikato police issue record number of tickets, more than any other region in the country

The Waikato district is the first police district in the country to receive these cars due to the high traffic volume going down some of the worst roads in the country, he said.

Despite almost three-months of lockdown in 2020 the road toll was up in Waikato, with 39 people dying on the roads, eight more than the same time period in 2019.

Nationally the road toll was down, with 288 dying on the roads in the year to date compared with 306 in 2019.

Having Waikato numbers up was devastating, Penno said.

“We know our enforcement is up [and] we know we are doing the right kind of enforcement.

“We know all our deployment is evidence based, and we know that our serious injury crashes are down seven per cent.

“Every indication is going the right way, except our fatalities, and it’s devastating.”

Driving around with Penno in one of the new unmarked vehicles, Stuff witnessed vehicles travelling in excess of 130 kilometres an hour, unaware they were passing a police car.

A vehicle was pinged going more than 130kmh by one of the new unmarked police fleet vehicles.

In the last four months around Waikato, the highway patrol unit had been issuing 150 seatbelt tickets a week, with more than 600 offence notices issued in October for cell phone use.

Out of the fatal crashes in 2020, Penno said there were still people dying because they were not properly restrained.

“[This] is just such a basic prevention thing you can do to keep yourself and your loved ones safe.

“[And] we are also still seeing impaired drivers, both drugs and alcohol, as a key factor in fatalities.”

For the month of November, Waikato police had been running Operation Physics. The target? Speed.

Penno said the reason behind this was because even when speed didn’t cause the crash, it was the single biggest determinant in whether people walked away or were carried away.

“A small change in speed makes a big difference to injury severity in a crash – for you and everyone else involved.”

He said research indicated speed was a factor in 30 per cent of fatal crashes and 21 per cent of serious injury crashes.

“One third of our crashes are mistakes - we are human, we make mistakes.”

Out of the fatal crashes in Waikato 10 were single-vehicle crashes, nine motorcyclists and five pedestrians.

The high number of pedestrians was very unusual, he said.

“The speed factor in that is critical and possibly contributes to those people losing their lives.”

Heading into the holiday period he said Waikato roads would be busier than ever because of no international travel, and he urged people to expect delays.

“These roads were never designed to keep up with the cars we put down them.

“Every trip is going to take twice as long as normal so factor that and plan your breaks.”

The booze bus would also be a familiar sight for people heading into the holiday season, with locations around central Waikato as well as rural.

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