A Rotorua woman who was texting as she drove crashed through a road barrier and plummeted nose-to-tail down a nine-metre drop before coming to a halt in a tree just above a stream.
Rotorua police are using the crash as a warning to motorists about the dangers of texting and driving, now an offence which can incur an instant fine of $80 and 20 demerit points.
The 19-year-old motorist was driving along Paradise Valley Rd about 3.30pm on Sunday when the crash happened.
Sergeant Chris McLeod said the woman had admitted to police she was texting at the time of the crash and that she was driving over the speed limit.
However, he said the speed was unlikely to be a factor in the crash and believed if she hadn't been wearing her seatbelt, she could have died.
"Her speed probably wasn't the major factor in this crash as she wouldn't have been much over the speed limit," Mr McLeod said.
"The texting would have been the major factor. She would not have been paying attention, which is why she missed the corner and crashed."
Mr McLeod said the woman went "texting and flying".
"She went off a bank which was a 30ft drop," he said.
"She went nose to tail, nose to tail several times and ended up in a tree above a stream".
He said the woman suffered facial injuries but her injuries could have been much worse if she hadn't been wearing her seatbelt.
"She is a very, very lucky woman."
The woman was the only person in the car, which Mr McLeod said, was a write-off.
A passerby alerted police to the crash and they arrived at the scene soon after, with the Ngongotaha Volunteer Fire Brigade and Rotorua St John ambulance crews.
The woman was able to get out of the vehicle herself, as it wasn't too far off the ground. Mr McLeod said she didn't need to be cut out but the fire brigade was called as a precaution.
He said the woman was "pretty shaken" after the crash.
"She was pretty lucky there wasn't any cars coming the other direction. It could have ended much, much worse."
Mr McLeod said even though this woman was wearing a seatbelt he was still shocked at the number of those who were not wearing seatbelts while they were in cars.
He said he handed out 15 fines to people who were not wearing a seatbelt while driving on a highway over the weekend.
"Seatbelts are fitted in cars and people have to wear them," he said.
"It amazes me the number of people who fail to do so. It is just crazy. This lady was very lucky that she was wearing hers."
Earlier this year, Bay of Plenty police road manager Inspector Kevin Taylor said texting and driving was a major high-risk problem in the region. It became illegal in November 2009.
"Our observations were the same as what occurred nationally. Initially, there was a big drop in this type of behaviour and then as drivers became less mindful of the new law and the risk posed by texting there has been a subsequent increase."
Mr Taylor said texting and driving was a factor in a number of road incidents.
- APNZBy Anita Moran of the Daily Post