Rural drivers to be targeted

Canterbury police will be paying particular attention to drivers in rural areas over the summer in a bid to prevent road deaths.

Canterbury's road policing manager, Inspector Al Stewart, said staff would be dedicated to rural areas enforcing laws around drink-driving, the wearing of seat belts and speed.

''Rural communities are very good at looking after each other in every respect other than driving,'' he said.

Eight people died on Canterbury roads last month, the majority on rural roads.

''We will certainly be looking at other areas as well, but we will be getting into small rural communities. Rural people die on rural roads,'' Insp Stewart said.

''Many crashes are drivers making basic mistakes. Small mistakes behind the wheel can have significant consequences.''

Road safety co-ordinators throughout Canterbury are also joining forces to push messages home to rural communities.

They are using humour to get across the messages of driving while sober and planning ahead. Last year's popular campaign, which featured a horse and its rider being led home by a dog, has been expanded.

The promotional campaign encourages drivers to think about having a sober driver, using the courtesy van, sharing the designated-driver duties or sleeping over so that people avoid driving when drunk.

As part of the campaign, posters, coasters, stickers, bar mats and pens will be distributed to licensed premises throughout the Waimate, Timaru, Mackenzie, Ashburton, Selwyn, Waimakariri and Hurunui Districts.

''Many people believe drivers who have been drinking have a lower chance of being stopped by police when they drive on rural back roads and, in some cases, people think they can get away with drink-driving in rural areas,'' Selwyn District road safety co-ordinator Ngaire Tinning said.

''Drink-driving is never acceptable. In many cases, when drivers are affected by alcohol, they tend to drive faster and fail to wear seat belts,'' she said.

''This mix often results in a tragedy.''

The campaign was launched recently in Methven with the arrival of Noel Stanger and his horse, Ammo, and Sue Newton and her dog, Oscar.

The Ashburton community alcohol action project team has been dreaming up campaigns for 21 years, combining humour and fun with the same serious messages - be a sober driver and plan ahead.

They have thrown cow pats and gumboots, hunted bears, been dancing party animals, gone to war, looked after endangered species and launched a millennium pickled bug but the message has remained the same.

Ashburton Community Alcohol and Drug Service general manager Chris Clark has been involved in the campaigns since the beginning.

''Even though we have had fun over the years, the messages behind these campaigns haven't changed - drive sober and plan ahead,'' she said.

''The reason behind drink-drive campaigns is simple: to ensure the safety of our community members, family and friends,'' she observed.

By Maureen Bishop.