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Police name deadliest district

Tuesday 5 March 2019 | Written by Rashneel Kumar | Published in Crime


About 80 per cent of road fatalities over the past 10 years have occurred in the district of Te Au O Tonga.

According to police data and other information gathered since 2008, there is a clear majority of the road incidents taking place there.

The police analysis also shows the Nikao/Panama area that falls under this district is where most of the road fatalities have taken place.

Given that alcohol is the most significant element in road fatalities, police in a statement said there were a range of influencing factors that continue to challenge their efforts towards road safety.

In total, of the 50 road fatalities recorded since 2008, 45 occurred on Rarotonga with nearly 87 per cent of those being alcohol-related

On average, police said about half of all crash victims treated at Rarotonga Hospital involved alcohol.

“Te Au O Tonga presents risks and vulnerabilities stemming from numerous considerations,” police said in a statement.

“This district is the busiest and most congested in terms of traffic because of the town, airport, harbours, schools, hospital, and populous villages like Tupapa and Nikao.

“And there is a high prevalence of alcohol at bars, nightclubs, sports clubs, restaurants, and other facilities and functions – all sources of drinking that attract drivers.”

The police finding show socialising around alcohol resulted in 78 per cent of the fatalities occurring at night and the early hours of the morning.

In the statement, police also said the economics around alcohol sales was a tough battle to counter.

“Police efforts to enforce traffic checkpoints continue to result in high numbers of arrests for excess alcohol, court prosecutions, and disqualified drivers,” the statement said.

“The impact of these efforts is difficult to measure as fatalities continue to occur despite the

campaigns and warnings, and community familiarity around losing loved ones.”

The police said it was also elusive to determine the impact of the helmet law introduced in 2016. It added about 75 per cent of Rarotonga’s fatalities involved motorcycles and only one was known to have worn a helmet.

In terms of just crashes, it said bike drivers were generally not wearing helmets.

“But police are also strengthening preventative measures by introducing Rider Education training modules for schools and there is every indication of strong community support.

“What is clearer is the need to shift the culture of driving towards greater responsibility and better habits on the road.

“The choices around alcohol consumption will start from the individual but may necessarily involve others if there is to be a difference.”

Cook Islands Road Safety Council president Brent Fisher has called on stronger penalties on those found guilty of drink-driving.

He said a fine and licence suspension for a period of time was not sufficient as excess blood/breath alcohol cases in court continue to rise.

“What we are doing at the moment is imposing a fine on someone found guilty of drunk driving and taking their licence off for a certain period of time. I think that’s not really much of a deterrent,” Fisher said.

“All it does is put a burden on the other family members to give them a ride and take them around during this period (when they are disqualified to drive).

“The problem is when they are drunk, they are driving, it’s not when they are sober, so how’s not driving for a certain period going to affect them because they will still manage to get a ride with their family members and friends and it’s a hassle for others.”

Fisher said punishments such as properly organised probations every Saturdays would teach drunk driving offenders a better lesson.

“I would think twice about drink driving if I knew I was going to lose every Saturday morning or afternoon doing community work or other chores for the government.”