23 Oct 2017

Young motorcyclists in Cooks still ignoring helmet law

3:22 pm on 23 October 2017

Young people in the Cook Islands face criminal convictions if they fail to pay fines for not wearing helmets while riding motorbikes.

Public safety campaign sign in Cook Islands

Public safety campaign sign in Cook Islands Photo: RNZI/Walter Zweifel

The government requires 16 to 25-year-olds to wear a helmet. Those who don't and are caught are fined, and if they fail to pay the fine they are sent to court.

It is part of a push by Cook Islands government to reduce road traffic deaths to zero and halve the number of serious injuries by 2020.

Last year, they re-introduced a law requiring young drivers and tourists to wear helmets on motorbikes.

However, Sergeant Maeva Kirikava said police were still seeing too many motorcyclists ignoring the law.

"We run daily radar checks and checkpoints and we're always getting people on these checkpoints.

"Roughly we'll probably get two or three people per day.

"Some of these people who are caught are paying for their fines, but there are some who aren't and they are the ones ending up in court."

In the past five months, 15 young riders are reported to have been taken to court for not paying the fine, which costs up to $US70.

Sergeant Kirikava said that those who received a fine were given seven days to pay it off.

"If you fail to pay off your fine in time, the police are required to prepare documentation and lay a charge within the high court.

"This is when you are convicted for a particular offence.

"You are not getting convicted for not wearing a helmet, but because you have failed to comply with law on paying off your ticket."

RNZ Pacific's correspondent Florence Syme-Buchanan said there was a feeling that police could do more to encourage young people to wear helmets.

"This entire year, very rarely do you see the police actually having checkpoints specifically to check for helmets.

"So you see a lot of young people driving all over the islands, they've become complacent again."

Sergeant Kirikava said parents needed to educate their children better on the road code.

"We have been running programmes in the schools, just trying to emphasise on wearing safety helmets and we've been doing them every quarter.

"I, personally, have been going to the schools and raising this message of wearing the safety helmets.

"Cook Islands Helmets Save Lives: FB campaign

Photo: Facebook - Cook Islands Helmets Save Lives

"We received some positive feedback from families that have stopped us on the road and told us that their child is actually telling the parents to not forget to wear their safety helmets.

"The message doesn't get to change everybody's attitude, but it is starting to make an impact."

Secretary of Health Elizabeth Iro, who does a lot of work around linking health with road safety, wanted the helmet law to apply to all drivers.

"We would like to see that it is a compulsory for all motorcyclists, not just those between 16 and 25.

"Just from what we've had to deal with in the hospital and response side of things, wearing a helmet could make a difference."