Rural people urged to stop being bystanders

Southern Police have this month been focusing on rural drink driving across Otago and Southland as they work to reduce the trauma caused when people drink and drive.

Acting Southern District Road policing manager Senior Sergeant Steve Larking said rural roads provide different kinds of risks and challenges.

''Rural people are more prone to injury on rural roads as the bulk of the roads are 100km an hour zones, road conditions are often more challenging, there are more gravel roads, and the distances from immediate help and medical care are often greater,'' he said.

Police have been targeting all aspects of drink-driving behaviour for years but since the beginning of this month have begun focusing on the rural aspect of the situation.

Appointing a sober driver, planning a safe way to get home and being a responsible host were all ways we could positively influence our friends and family, Snr Sgt Larking said.

''We've all got a responsibility to be safe road users, for ourselves and others on the road.''

Last year, New Zealand Police worked alongside Rural Women New Zealand as they conducted a rural crime survey which said that drink-driving was one of the largest concerns for rural people.

Rural Women's focus has been on encouraging people to use Crimestoppers as the way to report rural crime, including drink-driving recidivists, due to the difficulties of doing so otherwise in a close-knit rural community. They believed enforcement was going to be a key way of stopping this behaviour.

At the Rural Women's conference last year, John Perham, of Crimestoppers, said rural people needed to move from being bystanders in the crime prevention process to being active participants in helping police in every way they could to make rural communities safe.

''Often rural people will know who is regularly driving drunk, but there is a reluctance to dob in friends and neighbours.''

Hospitality New Zealand could not be reached for comment.

- by Nicole Sharp