The number of Western Bay drivers being ticketed for talking on their mobile phones has soared over the past year as people slip back into bad habits, police say.
Nearly 350 cellphone infringement notices were issued between July 1, 2011 and June 30, 2012 - 197 more than for the same period the previous year .
Western Bay of Plenty head of road policing Senior Sergeant Ian Campion said initially there had been a high level of compliance when the rule banning the use of mobile phones was introduced in November 2009.
Mr Campion urged drivers to use a hands free kit, blue tooth capability or simply switch the phone off when driving.
"If there is a real need to have the phone switched on then drivers should pull over in a safe place before answering.
"Creating, sending or reading text messages is not allowed under any circumstances.
"Using a mobile phone without the aid of hands free or blue tooth systems creates a real distraction and leads to crashes," he said.
Seat belt infringements had also risen sharply - from 1758 to 2266 - over the same period.
Police were checking drivers and their vehicles at Hewletts Rd and Totara St yesterday and issued 22 seatbelt and six cellphone infringements.
Earlier in the week they were opposite the Bridge Club on Ngatai Rd and Sergeant Lester Polglase said in the space of half an hour they issued five seatbelt and one mobile phone infringements.
One woman, who was not wearing a seatbelt and had been forbidden to drive because she had no licence, had her car impounded for 28 days.
And a truck driver on SH2 south of Waitangi who was caught using a cellphone was issued an infringement notice for $100 and earned 20 demerit points.
"He was within the speed limit, doing 90km/h and we had no other issues with his driving or log book." Mr Polglase said.
The fine for not wearing a seatbelt is $150 with no demerits and using a mobile phone $100 plus 20 demerit points.
"People are texting and driving with their head down with one hand on the steering wheel - it's no wonder they have crashes,"Mr Polglase said.
Mr Campion said seatbelts were an essential safety feature in the reduction of injury when a vehicle is involved in a crash.
"If you are not wearing a seat belt and are involved in a crash, front seat occupants can be thrown through the windscreen and onto the road, and back seat passengers can be thrown forward into the front seats or front seat passengers."
Through a failure of people to wear restraints there have been a number of serious injuries and deaths throughout the Bay of Plenty, but Mr Campion said seat belts only take a moment to put on, "so it's a no brainer really. Child restraints and seat belts need to be worn as the manufacturer intended and if worn incorrectly can cause unnecessary injuries. Help us keep the roads safe.".
He said although most people drive responsibly, police will continue to target drivers who use mobile phones illegally and those not wearing seat belts.