Henry Puna’s helmet law legacy

Wednesday October 07, 2020 Written by Published in Local
On Monday, Cook Islands police officers issued 33 fines in relation to breaches of the new helmet law. 20100612 On Monday, Cook Islands police officers issued 33 fines in relation to breaches of the new helmet law. 20100612

After two extensions due to Covid-19 and a lack of stock on Rarotonga, the helmet law initiated at the highest level by former Prime Minister Henry Puna is in full force. 

Former Prime Minister Henry Puna doesn’t like to talk up his own achievements, he believes that’s for other people to decide.

But he couldn’t help but smile when observing people riding their motorbikes and wearing helmets.

On the first official day of his retirement after stepping down as Cook Islands Prime Minister, the new law was enforced making helmets compulsory for all motorbike users.

But it would seem that some motorcyclists haven’t received the brief about the new helmet law or they are choosing to ignore it.

On Monday, police officers issued 33 fines (early shift up to 3pm) with road checkpoints staged around the island.  

Yesterday, nine people were given fines for breaking the rules.

Police spokesperson Trevor Pitt said police want to also advise motorcyclists to fasten their helmets as there are some noticeably not bothering to tie the strap.  

“We have had one fatality in recent years with one victim, who was wearing an unstrapped helmet, he said.

“I can also point out we’ve already had one person involved in a motorbike crash who did not fasten their strap. The driver sustained facial injuries.”

It was at the end of January this year, following the tragic death of young Mona Ioane Jr and Fijian expat Amit Kumar after their motorbikes collided in Tupapa that the former Prime Minister said: “Enough is enough”.

“We are taking a strong stance on this and will work with all key agencies to make these changes. My hope is that everyone will agree this is a wise step in saving the lives of our people.”

At the time Puna held top level meetings with key stakeholders including the Cook Islands Police Commissioner Maara Tetava, senior police staff and Crown Law to discuss proposed changes being implemented to road safety legislation.

A March deadline was set by the former prime minister to present the revised legislation to cabinet and included compulsory use of helmets for all bike users, a decrease in the legal alcohol limit from 400mcg to 250mcg, which was in line with current legislation in New Zealand and Australia.

However due to the Covid-19 pandemic and a lack of stock on Rarotonga, the compulsory helmet law was not implemented until October 1.

Despite the delays, Puna was elated to see people wearing helmets.

“I think it’s wonderful, lives will be saved on our roads,” he said.

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