In a statement issued on Facebook before the New Year holiday break, Tetava said the blatant ignorance of road rules by some motorists was totally unacceptable.
“Lives are being put at risk by motorists speeding, driving carelessly and driving while under the influence of alcohol.
“We saw and dealt with many of these drivers over the Christmas period. Some of these drivers who have had alcohol have tried to outsmart police by taking the back roads after their nights out in town - but were caught. It is appalling to see what people do to break the law and avoid being caught.
Fortunately, we have not had any serious or fatal crashes.
Tetava, who issued his plea in both English and Cook Islands Maori, said the police message was simple: “If you’ve had alcohol get a sober driver, if you want to get somewhere safely, leave ahead of time and drive to the conditions, if you want to drive stupid do it in your own back yard.”
“We will continue to be on the roads and in our communities doing what we must do to keep everyone safe.”
Tetava said the public could help by telling police about drunk, speeding and careless drivers by calling 22499 anytime.
The commissioner’s plea follows revelations that 2017 registered the highest number of motor vehicle crashes since 2014. Just a few days before the first day of the new year on Monday this week, the number of reported traffic incidents for December stood at 22 and the preliminary annual tally was 258.
In 2016 there were 230 accidents and 2015, 212. A peak was reached in 2014 with 267, while in 2013 there were 234 road accidents, said police media consultant Trevor Pitt.
“Statistics like this, including annual fatalities and the numbers of prosecutions for violations – particularly drink-driving cases, had spurred the Cook Islands Police Service toward tactical changes and revitalised enforcement measures in recent weeks, Pitt added.
“Road safety on Rarotonga is a priority and despite the ongoing campaigns and messages, as well as legislative steps to introduce the helmet law, the driving culture remains poor.
“Attitudes and behaviour on the road reflect an overly-casual approach to the local traffic environment, which carries a variety of risks that are peculiar to the island and often ignored.”
The bad behaviour of some motorists was evident from Thursday night’s arrest of a dangerous driver, Ptt said.
“This incident was backed up by the eyewitness account of an off-duty police officer, who observed the antics while driving on the Avatiu back road. The driving was so dangerous the officer thought it could have ended in tragedy. Unfortunately, the incident is not an isolated case of idiocy on our road but another example of what the Police Service is determined to change.
“Shortly after 6pm the male driver was observed riding a Honda Wave motorcycle bending forward with his chin almost touching the handle bars of the motorcycle. He was driving faster than 40kmh.
The off-duty officer then saw the man take his left hand off the handle bar and stretch it out while bending over. A few seconds after, he released his right hand and stretched it out also. The defendant was eventually pulled over at a checkpoint at Atupa. And when spoken to, the driver admitted to the facts as outlined.
“The incident ended in court the next day with a guilty plea, and a monetary fine of $150. But no disqualification despite a request from the police prosecution. Whether such penalties have any effect on drivers is debateable.”
Pitt said a major concern for police was the rising number of arrests for drivers over the legal limit for alcohol.
“In December, the preliminary figure for excess alcohol (EBA) arrests was 18. November was 12. Additional arrests for dangerous driving and driving while disqualified took the total number higher. The limits are 400 micrograms of alcohol per litre of breath and 80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood.”