Riding on the back of a truck is a deeply ingrained island institution, with passengers, including young children, sometimes perched dangerously on the sides of trays, sitting on unsecured chairs, or standing up, leaning against the cab.
When a post in the Rarotonga Community and Beyond Facebook page revealed a child had been treated by ambulance staff after falling off the back of a truck, many people commented on how dangerous riding on truck trays could be, but appeared unsure whether it was actually against the law.
Police media consultant Trevor Pitt says his understanding is that passengers are not allowed to sit on the edges of the tray side walls, but must be seated on the floor.
“Accidents do happen and we see people breaking those laws all the time.”
He says if an injury occurs, it is the driver who is responsible.
“Here police would look at the option of a careless driving charge or a more serious careless driving causing injury charge.”
Truck drivers who think their passengers are unsafe, says Police Inspector John Strickland, should either not start the vehicle, or if they are already in motion, they should pull over to the side of the road.
“Our laws around this remain the same and haven’t changed for a very long time.”
He says children sitting inside the cab of a truck are safe given the low speed limits on the island.
“It’s anything unsafe, like sitting on the edge of the truck tray, or standing without holding on; that is not allowed.
“People can stand in (behind the cab) as long as they are holding onto a secure frame and if they are seated in a chair, it should be low.”
He says while police are keeping an eye out for unsafe passengers, during the current road safety campaign they are particularly on the lookout for people driving under the influence of alcohol.
“We have no tolerance for that and no tolerance for speeding.
“If you are stopped, you will pay the consequences. Drivers’ licences can be suspended and it can also (mean) an instant fine of $100 or more, depending on your speed.”
On another topic that’s often raised during school holidays when young children are sometimes spotted out on the streets late at night, is the need for some parents to exercise more control over their children.
Strickland says parents need to know where their children are and have some control of their movements. He says that applies especially during the festive season.
“We would like to see parents’ cooperation here, for their children’s own wellbeing.”
He also points out that as always, nightclub and bar owners and staff have a responsibility toward their patrons, keeping an eye out for underage drinkers, and people who have over-indulged in alcohol.
“It’s all about prevention. Let’s enjoy the festive season, but let’s also be wise.”