In 1999, a brand new observational documentary series hit our screens – Motorway Patrol. In the ensuing 20 years, the programme’s become a national favourite, going behind the scenes with Auckland’s traffic police to reveal what really happens on our motorways.
To celebrate Motorway Patrol’s 20th birthday, we’ve dug into the archives and come up with some of the greatest stories in the show’s history – from crashes and smashes, brawls and drunks to the many laugh-out-loud moments that have made Motorway Patrol a national institution.
Producer Mary Durham says the team have interviewed many of the police associated with the programme to help tell the story of the show’s evolution. “When it was first on our screens in 1999, Motorway Patrol really was a new kind of television,” she says. “It was unheard of to have such access to members of the New Zealand Police.” “Some of the officers were initially a bit reluctant to have a crew ride along with them but I think those who participated came to understand it gives the public a real insight into the demands and challenges of their job.”
As well as highlights from the past 20 years, the programme documents how road policing has changed over the years, from the methods of breath-testing and the amount of alcohol allowed in your system to the introduction of photo drivers’ licences.
“The officers we interviewed think that speed has generally come down,” says Mary, “but on the other hand distraction offences have gone up – and by distraction they’re usually talking about cell phones. “Mobiles were around in 1999, of course, but in those days they were simply just phones. Now our officers are catching people updating facebook, taking selfies and texting, all while travelling at 100ks.” Mary says if her maths is right (“never my strong point”), Motorway Patrol has accounted for about 100 hours of television, so it’s been quite a job selecting what to include in the special. “There have been so many great moments over the years so the question has never been what to put in, but rather what to leave out. And that’s a great position to be in.”