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Issue No. 410 February 2017

Tragedy averted for lucky 13

“I was angry and almost in tears” – Constable Sheryll Pearce
Photo: Constable Fontella Ulberg, Auckland Motorways

When Constable Sheryll Pearce stopped a people mover on Auckland’s Northern Motorway, what she saw made her so angry she nearly wept.

Crammed into the seven-seat Nissan were 13 members of an extended family, including eight children, and only two adults in the front had restraints on.

Three unrestrained women held children on their laps, one a tiny baby; a child hid a smaller child under a blanket on her lap; a young boy bounced between the rows of seats.

Six of the children should have had booster seats or baby capsules.

“When I opened the door my heart sank,” says Sheryll, who was responding to calls from worried members of the public. “I thought ‘Oh my God – how do I sort this out?’”

The post-Christmas incident followed a year in which 100 of those who died on New Zealand roads were unrestrained – almost twice the annual toll from 2012 to 2014.

“I was angry and almost in tears,” says Sheryll. “To think these adults could be so negligent, not just about their own safety but more importantly about their children’s safety.”

She directed them off the motorway and another vehicle arrived to collect some of the passengers, but without enough restraints. The Nissan driver went to a nearby shop to buy a child seat but it was clear the adults did not know how to use one.

Sheryll talked to the adults about what might have happened in a crash and gave the driver infringement notices for having a child under 15 and a child under seven unrestrained, and for unpaid road user charges. She also issued one to one of the women.

“I could have issued many more but felt the money would be better spent getting child restraints,” she says. “I don’t believe just in enforcement – where possible I want to educate people, to change their attitude.”

Superintendent Steve Greally, National Manager Road Policing, was impressed by Sheryll’s approach.

“She nailed the message home to them about their kids’ safety,” he says. “Too many infringements could potentially result in non-payment and no safety benefits. Her approach will ensure those kids are safer.”

Steve says Road Policing staff will continue to focus on speed, lack of restraints and driver impairment.


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