Police to target phone drivers

By Roger Moroney

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Drivers like this one spotted in Havelock Rd will continue to be targeted by police as driving/calling statistics are still too high. Photo/Duncan Brown
Drivers like this one spotted in Havelock Rd will continue to be targeted by police as driving/calling statistics are still too high. Photo/Duncan Brown

Hawke's Bay Road Policing team says drivers are risking lives texting and driving and not wearing seat belts.

During a 90-minute period last week members of the team pulled over 15 drivers for using a cellphone while driving and 16 not wearing their seatbelts.

The result left Eastern Region Acting Road Policing Manager Senior Sergeant Greg Brown and his team shaking their heads - and the head-shaking continued the following day.

"A further 30 drivers were found not wearing their seatbelts during the same time-frame," he said.

"Those drivers caught are risking the safety of themselves and other road users."

Mr Brown said provisional statistics gathered during January and February this year showed too many Hawke's Bay drivers were still ignoring the rules.

Offence detection rates had risen sharply through the increased police focus "which shows the true extent of the issue".

In January, 240 drivers were picked up for not using a seat restraint compared with 136 in January 2013. There were 98 child restraint offences recorded as opposed to 70 the previous year, while 32 drivers were caught driving while using a cellphone (23 the previous January).

While February statistics were still provisional they were no improvement as some offences were still to be processed.

There were 123 drivers stopped for not using a seat restraint (131 in 2013), 61 incorrect child seat restraint (69) and 20 caught using cellphones while driving (13).

Mr Brown said in October last year Hawke's Bay Police ran a campaign of checkpoints focused on "distracted drivers" and non-seatbelt compliance, in association with Roadsafe Hawke's Bay.

"We were disappointed with the number of drivers who were caught blatantly ignoring the rules," he said.

"Since then we have run regular monthly checkpoints aimed at catching those who continue to offend."

Police were using roadside "spotters" or unmarked vehicles to detect drivers committing offences and Mr Brown made no excuses for using discrete tactics.

"We just want people to make the right choice all of the time, not just because they see a police officer.

"Not wearing a seatbelt could cost you your life," he said, adding the financial cost was an immediate $150 - "which is entirely preventable if you make it click".

The same went for cellphones as the distraction of using one while driving could result in a life lost, or serious injury. "While the $80 fine and demerit points make it an expensive phone call."

There was one positive side however, as officers had reported seeing more people safely pulled over while on the phone.

Mr Brown said the targeting would continue, and with the approach of autumn and winter, when more accidents occurred, there would be increased focus on intersections which were high on the collision black list.

"Enforcement of Stop signs and red/amber lights will be added to our normal focus on speed and drink driving, so again I just encourage drivers to do the right thing and keep everybody safe."

- Hawkes Bay Today

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