Rural areas have disproportionate levels of road trauma due to the types of roads, vehicles, and driver behaviours found in farming regions. This environment also presents particular difficulties for road policing, as small numbers of officers must cover large areas and carry out enforcement action against drivers who are often known to them personally.
These types of challenges are faced by a number of New Zealand Police Districts. In one of these, the Southern District (covering the Southland and Otago regions), New Zealand Police have implemented an integrated approach to enhance road-policing activities. This approach has prioritised improved crash reporting and individual officer performance monitoring, providing a solid basis for intelligence based deployment according to risk. The latter has included focused intelligence activities on specific problem areas such as rural drink driving. Staff motivation and training strategies tailored to the rural environment have also been implemented, which has enabled the adoption of research-based enforcement tactics focusing on speeding, restraints, and intersection enforcement.
These activities have been reinforced by the development of strong external partnerships, particularly with the Land Transport Safety Authority and a positive, actively managed relationship with the media. These partnerships have provided strong ongoing support for enforcement and education activities in the Southern District.
This integrated approach has resulted in Southern District achieving the best crash reporting rates in New Zealand and significantly increased enforcement activity. Improvements in key road safety indicators such as restraint wearing, open road speeds, hospital admissions, fatal crashes and the proportion of alcohol-related crashes demonstrate the effectiveness of the initiatives that have been undertaken. The approach adopted by the Southern District can therefore be viewed as a best practice model for rural road policing with many aspects that are applicable in other contexts.