The Policeman who turned to chase a motorcyclist on Buller gorge, blocking the road and causing two other motorcyclists to be seriously injured, has just been found guilty of dangerous driving causing injury.
He is no doubt haunted by the accident – as a professional officer policing road safety the decision to make a 3 point turn on a narrow, windy and 100kmph road was very poor.
My earlier post questioned whether road safety was a value for the police force, or whether detecting speeding came first. The maneuver was reckless for three reasons – he could not catch the bike anyway, the turn itself was dangerous – especially as bikers often ride together, and the attitude of “stop all speeding no matter what” was not putting common sense road safety ahead of the letter of the law.
“The first and foremost duty of everyone on the road it to ensure safety – that of ourselves and that of other drivers.”
However there is much more to this incident than one individual’s actions:
“There is a systematic safety culture failure that really scares me here.”
When there is a personal failure we should look beyond the actions of one person and question the organisation. I know very little about the inner workings of the NZ Police force, but I would hope that they now internally understand the circumstances that led to Anthony Dale Bridgman making that 3 point turn.
- Was zero harm when traffic policing reinforced as the number one priority to all staff, no matter what else?
- Was there a quick safety process to check whether a pursuit will be safe? (e.g. a grown ups version of stop, look listen. I like answering a quick “what could go wrong?“)
- Was the police vehicle and driver training suitable for the roads?
- Was the road safe enough?
- Was motorcycling speeding on that road a road safety priority?
- If slowing speeds on that road was a priority, then was there a safer way to do so?
- ..and so on. There are structured processes for conducting this sort of review.
I will note that from what I have seen on the roads and in the newspapers the NZ Police force seems to generally understand this sort of stuff more than virtually any other police force I have seen – and I have ridden on roads in over 60 countries.
However I am very concerned that the way statistics are coded and interpreted in New Zealand means that there is an overemphasis on speeding and an under emphasis on road quality.
It’s easy to code “excessive speed”, but much harder to say “yet another lousy NZ road” when reporting an accident. The primary cause of this particular accident was the incorrect actions of an individual, but “lousy road” was very high up on the list of contributing factors, along with the other answers to the questions above.
From a new article on stuff:
investigating officer Detective Senior Sergeant Tony Bernards said the verdict was “satisfying”.
He believed the crash was an “aberration” and would not prompt regular officer training.
The police manual required officers to be prudent and competent drivers and not put other motorists at risk, he said.
“This was a very unusual event.
“There are many times a day when officers make the decision to turn and do not because it is unsafe.”