Dashcams snap dangerous drivers

The next near-miss on the road to Milford could be caught on camera, thanks to a joint dashboard camera initiative between police and commercial drivers.

In the lead-up to the peak tourist season, Te Anau Police constable Dwight Grieve has been lending dashcams to commercial freight and tourism operators on the road between Queenstown and Milford.

Mr Grieve said he was able to partner with Australian dashcam manufacturer IVCS, which let him borrow the first camera to get the project started.

“I was looking at it for police applications but also commercial driver applications,” he said. “Bus drivers and other local commercial operators have trialed it, and some of them have from there bought their own units.”

About half a dozen known dashcams were now active on the busy tourist route, and it was hoped that the footage they captured would increase convictions and change driver behaviour, Mr Grieve said.

“The biggest thing is you can’t deny video or photos,” he said. “If [commercial drivers] ring through a bad driver complaint, they can pull over and actually show us the footage.”

Highway patrolling was so often one person’s word against another, which made prosecution difficult without first-person evidence, Mr Grieve said. It was not uncommon for a driver at fault to be completely unaware of their mistake.

“It’s not just about enforcement, it’s about showing people their behaviour. Often I’ll show people and they’ll say ‘Wow, I didn’t realize I was doing it that badly’.”

Having commercial drivers cooperating with police put more sets of eyes on the road, and they also provided invaluable feedback on road infrastructure like new rumble strips, Mr Grieve said.

“What I’m trying to do is promote better driving by the commercial drivers, and if they feel that they’re actually on our side instead of only being dealt with on an enforcement basis, it creates a better relationship.”

Great Sights tour bus driver Brian Stacey said it was great working with Mr Grieve and with dashcam technology that allowed footage to be shared almost instantly.

“It would be nice to have it in all the coaches,” he said. “It’s a good idea for rental companies to understand that most coaches have cameras.”

Having photos and video saved a lot of court time, and also provided protection against claims of wrongdoing, he said.

The road to Milford would always be dangerous while it was open to private vehicles, but the one saving grace was that most traffic at any time was travelling the same way, Mr Stacey said.

“It’s 90 percent one-directional,” he said. “The traffic is like a tide.”

Mr Grieve said although it would not be for everyone, more dashcams on our busiest and most dangerous roads would hopefully precipitate a cultural change making road safety a whole community responsibility, not just a police one.

“The idea has recently, I’ve been told, been sent through to national headquarters.”

Mr Grieve also conceived the steering wheel tags that are now found in all Queenstown rentals as part of the NZTA Visiting Driver Signature Project.


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