Cooks police backing sought for compulsory helmets
Cook Islands police are being called on to take a stronger position over the community's push for motorcyclists to use helmets.
Pressure is on the Cook Islands police to take a stronger stand on road safety, including the push for helmets to be made compulsory for motorcycle users.
The Police Commissioner, Ma'ara Tetava, has been asked to back the compulsory helmet campaign but our correspondent says he appears non-committal on the matter.
Commissioner Tetava has said if there is overwhelming evidence of the merits of helmets then there can be no other option, but Florence Syme Buchanan told Don Wiseman the helmet advocates want him to make a stronger commitment.
FLORENCE SYME BUCHANAN: I think the road safety council, various online groups that have been formed to try and lobby the government to enforce it, well they are asking police to take a position. What's happening now is there's also been a call for special education of our young drivers, to introduce the three licence system stages that New Zealand has. They get a learner's licence, then they get their restricted, and then finally they get the full licence. We only have the full licence. So you've got 16 year olds who have just learnt to drive a motorbike and then they are on the road. The approach that people want to see happen here is this. They want to see helmets made compulsory and they'd like to see the better education of our drivers, the introduction of defensive driving, a comprehensive process that all our young drivers have to go through.
DON WISEMAN: How would all of this impact on tourists because one of the attractions, in a way, of Rarotonga is hiring a little scooter and tottling off around the island and that's what people do in their hundreds, don't they?
FSM: But some of our worst culprits are the tourists. No doubt that that is the attraction and we all love driving on our motorbikes with no helmets on. I do, I have a little scooter which I nip around on, but now attitudes need to change.
DW: Where is the tourist industry on this though, are they supportive of helmets?
FSM: They haven't indicated what stance they would take on this but they would like to see safer roads and as I was saying earlier, our tourists are sometimes the worst culprits because they've never driven a motorbike in New Zealand and they come to the Cook Islands, they show their licence to drive in New Zealand, so all they need to do is go for a short practical, which is just a short drive through town and then they get their motorcycle licence and then they're off on our roads and you see them wobbling around the roads, they can barely control these motorbikes, they often are speeding.
DW: So if there were tighter restrictions on licensing, it could mean that tourists just won't be able to get on them?
FSM: Well if they don't drive a motorcycle in New Zealand and they come here and they put themselves in danger, and they put the locals in danger too, because there are a lot of accidents that the tourists find themselves in because they're not experienced to drive on our roads and they are not experienced to drive on scooters.
DW: As you alluded to, there is a lot of feeling within the community about the need to have these helmets on the motorcyclists, is it intensifying?
FSM: Yes it is. It's definitely gaining momentum because people are realising that something has to be done and it has to be done quickly.
Our Cook Islands correspondent, Florence Syme Buchanan.
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