Police to target cars following too closely

Waitaki is bucking the national trend in the cause of traffic crashes - but not in a good way.

While alcohol and speed are usually the greatest two causes of crashes nationally, the biggest cause in the Waitaki district over the past five years had been driver distraction.

Driver distraction was responsible for 20% of the crashes in the Waitaki district between 2005 and 2009, compared with 19% resulting from speed and 19% from alcohol.

Highway patrol sergeant Peter Muldrew said that was odd.

"Distraction" could cover a lot of faults that were difficult to tie down - distraction inside the car or outside or "too much on the mind".

It also included not paying attention and driving too close to the vehicle in front.

Now police plan to do something about it, starting with drivers who follow the vehicle in front too closely.

The campaign, launched yesterday, starts with two weeks' education for drivers.

Drivers will be given advice, including a card, on correct following distances.

In September, police will get tougher.

Following too closely will be targeted and infringement notices issued.

Sgt Muldrew said the general "rule of thumb" for a minimum following distance in good conditions with a dry road was one-10th of the speed x 4 - 50kmh would have a 20m following distance, for example.

The "two-second rule" could also be used - picking a fixed point ahead (such as a road marker, bridge or pole) at which the car in front passes, then counting the time until your vehicle reaches the same marker.

Sgt Muldrew emphasised these guides were for minimum following distances.

Greater following distances needed to be allowed for different road conditions, the size of vehicles (a small car versus a four-wheel drive or truck) and when towing.

- david.bruce@odt.co.nz

 

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