Cook Islands Helmets Save Lives community group was born out of a determination to talk about changes to the law regarding compulsory use of helmets for all road users, following the death of 16-year-old Vetina Nicholas in 2015.
An initial meeting at LBV in Muri, attracted a small number of passionate community members who vowed to keep campaigning under the slogan “enough was enough” and the hashtag #helmetssavelives.
Since then, the Prime Minister says at least 24 more people have died on Rarotonga roads – and the helmets group has grown to more than 1000 members.
News that the Cook Islands Government is taking a strong stance on revising current road safety legislation and making helmets compulsory for all road users has been welcomed and applauded by members of the group.
Current legislation makes it compulsory for helmets to be worn by people aged between 16-25 years.
Group spokesperson Debi Futter-Puati said to finally have the Prime Minister Henry Puna and the Government stand up and make this call was a true mark of leadership.
“We are absolutely elated with the announcement that helmets will be compulsory for all road users. We salute their leadership and the strong stance they have taken on these issues,” she said.
“This decision may not prevent accidents from occurring but it is certainly a step in the right direction and is going to save lives here in the Cook Islands,” she said.
Cook Islands Police spokesperson Trevor Pitt said implementing the new road safety laws –especially the ban of mobile phones and earphones, the reduced breath alcohol limit from 400mcg to 250mcg, and compulsory wearing of helmets – would be straightforward.
Though there could be more debate about the others, such as the curfew, Pitt said, the main thing was the momentum, and the Prime Minister and Cabinet are providing the political will.
“The community needs to get behind the proposed changes too and support what the police are recommending,” Pitt said.
The Prime Minister has given authority to Police Commissioner Maara Tetava and his staff to enforce harsher penalties in regards to drink driving, especially with repeat offenders.
Police have also asked to be able to continue to instantly impound vehicles and motorbikes if a driver is found to be over the legal alcohol limit, following a highly successful campaign over the Festive Season.
The Prime Minister and Commissioner are travelling to Kiribati today to attend a regional meeting on anti-corruption and return next week.
On their return another stakeholder meeting is on the agenda to take up the proposals and both are positive in moving swiftly to ensure the safer traffic measures.
Tetava met separately with Crown Law yesterday and said the discussions around the draft legislation were positive.