Distracted drivers in the gun
Nationwide two-week campaign targets use of mobile phones and other dangerous habits
Auckland motorists - including a courier driver - were spotted yesterday using their mobile phones while behind the wheel, despite a nationwide campaign cracking down on distracted driving.
The Herald watched drivers heading north on the Southern Motorway from about 12.45pm until 1.15pm and saw several using their mobile devices.
Penalties for careless or inconsiderate driving convictions include fines of up to $3000. Photo / Nick Reed
A nationwide campaign to stop people using cellphones and other distracting technology when driving started yesterday morning.
Superintendent Steve Greally said too many motorists let phones, iPods, iPads, and other devices distract them. But he said other bad habits could be hazardous too.
Mr Greally, the national manager for road policing, said a person was recently spotted reading a book while driving.
ther distractions included brushing teeth or putting on makeup. People doing so could potentially be charged with careless driving and face fines of up to $3000.
"Those are not the actions of a careful and prudent driver. So we need to make sure people understand, if you take your eyes off the road even for a second, you could kill a kid, you could kill anybody, including yourself."
Penalties for careless or inconsiderate driving convictions include fines of up to $3000 and disqualification from getting or holding a driver's licence.
Mr Greally said changing driver attitudes was pivotal to the overall campaign, which began at 6am and would last a fortnight.
Detected offences involving drivers using phones had increased 273 per cent since late 2009. Photo / Nick Reed
"It's not a blitz. It's just trying to heighten the awareness of the risk around driving while distracted."
He said too many drivers still did not accept that using a phone at any time while driving was illegal. "The problem is getting a lot worse."
Detected offences involving drivers using phones had increased 273 per cent since late 2009 - and it was likely far more cases went undetected. Except for in emergencies, it was illegal to use a cellphone at any time while driving, even at stop signs or red lights.
"The only way you can use your phone with the engine going is if you're pulled over and stopped with the handbrake on, I would suggest, and deliberately out of the traffic flow." Hands-free kits could let drivers keep their hands and eyes focused on the road.
Even better, just turn the thing off and wait until you get from A to B."
The current campaign meant all police were urged to pay extra attention to drivers using cellphones and other distracting devices, he said.
"Even detectives ... when they're out and about doing their inquiries will be paying particular attention to drivers and their phones."
In Wellington, some drivers caught using mobile phones yesterday had not even noticed police approach.
"That's because they're really focused on their phones," Mr Greally said.
The "intensified focus" of the campaign would continue until September 27, he said. People using phones when driving could be fined $80, receive 20 demerit points, or for repeat offences, face disqualification.
Mr Greally said he hoped cellphone-using drivers would change their habits, as police would prefer not to clog up the courts.
"We'd much rather we didn't have to go down that track with anybody."