Next time you pick up your phone at a stop light for a sneaky message, the Phantom might well be behind you.
The unmarked motorcycle is one of only two in the country being brought to justice by police, with Waikato’s top highway cop seeing it as a key weapon in the police arsenal to lower road tolls, which in 2022 hit 378 people, the highest in four years was died on the streets of the country.
Among other things, the undercover Yamaha MT-O9 motorcycle, or Phantom as the police call it, is used to sneak up on motorists who break the law, for which they make no apologies.
“He is [officer is] wearing high visibility protection but no police high visibility protection,” said Waikato District Highway Inspector Jeff Penno. “It’s a covert resource. So when you first notice it’s there, he’ll either knock on your window or he’ll turn on the lights and siren behind you.”
The bike joined the Waikato Road Police Team about six months ago for a 12-month test, and over time has been used in the Waikato District – from Coromandel to Mōkau and coast to coast.
Penno said the red motorcycle was equipped with a police radio that went wireless into the officer’s helmet. It has a certified odometer so pace checks can be done and it has full lights and siren.
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There is currently only one officer trained to ride a bike in Waikato, while another unmarked motorcycle is being tracked in Christchurch.
The main purpose is to catch people using their mobile phones and people moving freely in vehicles.
“People need to know if they’re in their car they can expect this thing to be behind them and if they’re stupid enough not to wear their seat belts we’ll stop them and they’ll get a ticket to commemorate.” this event. ”
Penno wouldn’t say how often the bike is used, but they use it to its maximum capacity. And since its inception, its success rate has been significantly higher than that of a marked vehicle.
“Unfortunately we caught a lot of people. We’re getting a lot more for phones than restraints, which is good as our seatbelt-wearing rates rise. But in Waikato and nationwide, between a quarter and a third of our road tolls are rampant people, which is really hard to believe.”
Last year, 54 people were killed on the streets of Waikato and Penno said scores more were seriously injured.
“Most of them were people who were speeding, people who were distracted by using their cellphones, were intoxicated and contributed by not wearing their seat belts.
The bike-carried officer can also monitor speed.
“There’s a holster for a laser gun so he can sit there static and do the laser and catch them.”
The bike was also an asset to working with the motorcycle community.
“Motorcyclists are high-risk road users, so it’s a great way to talk to them and get motorcycle messages across.
“We made a few bike stops near Raglan, especially when summer comes and the bikes come out of storage. It’s good to be proactive and make sure people have good gear, make sure the bikes are up to date.”
The motorcycle offers the police a much wider range of uses, making it easier to move through traffic and get to places that a car cannot.
“Because of the seating position, the officer has a much better view of the vehicles. Even if people think they’re smart by holding their phones on their laps, we can still see that and you’ll get a ticket.”
Penno is also urging motorists to be careful on the roads with back-to-back long weekends, with Auckland Anniversary and Waitangi starting from this week.
“Long weekends in Waikato are a real pressure point for us, we know we are sending large volumes of vehicles down roads that really aren’t designed for them, particularly in the Coromandel Peninsula.
“You have to allow more time, vary travel times so you’re not at peak times and make sure you come back really well rested, especially coming back from a long weekend when you’ve had a couple of big nights. A few drinks are fine, but make sure you’ve gotten that really good recovery session before you come back because you’ll likely be stuck in a hot car for some time.”