The New Zealand Police will begin cracking down on fleeing drivers from today by taking a harder approach that ensures offenders who fail to stop are held to account for their actions.
Police Commissioner Andrew Coster made the announcement following a fatal fleeing driver incident in Dunedin over the weekend, which is currently under investigation.
“The safety of our officers, the fleeing driver and other occupants, and the public is of the utmost importance,” he says.
“The amendments to the fleeing driver policy bring Police back to a more balanced position in these volatile, unpredictable, and high-risk events.”
Changes have also been made to the Fleeing Driver Framework, which helps Police officers make a decision about pursuing a fleeing driver or not depending on their level of risk to safety. This factors in the threat posed by the driver and occupant(s) and the risk of them committing further offences.
“The clarity our staff will obtain from the refreshed policy enables police to address these trends when drivers refuse to pull over when instructed, while acknowledging that risk and safety of all involved must always come first,” Coster says.
Since changes were last made to the law at the end of 2020, the New Zealand Police says there has been a significant increase in the number of fleeing drivers it sees, as well as a significant decrease in the proportion of offenders it identifies.
“The feedback we’ve collated from staff and communities calls for a different balance from the previous changes made in December 2020,” Coster says.
”Since then, offenders have become more brazen and are taking more risks in their driving behaviour.”
Earlier in May, the New Zealand Government announced that it would introduce harsher penalties for drivers who refuse to stop for Police under the Land Transport (Road Safety) Amendment Bill.
The harsher consequences include the ability for Police to seize and impound a vehicle for six months if a driver fails to stop, as well as impound a vehicle if the registered owner fails to provide information about a fleeing driver. The length of license disqualification for a fleeing driver has also been increased to anywhere between 12 and 24 months, while Courts will be able to order a vehicle to be forfeited upon conviction for a failing to stop offence.
The new law will have its first reading in Parliament soon and is expected to come into effect before the upcoming election later this year.
As for the Police’s new fleeing driver policy, this comes into effect as of today (Monday, 29 May 2023).