Cellphone blitz could be repeated

File photo / Whanganui Chronicle
File photo / Whanganui Chronicle

Police expect a high number of people have been caught using their cellphones while driving during a 10-day blitz and are not ruling out another crackdown.

Police carried out a nationwide crackdown, starting on October 25, to catch people breaking the two-year-old law.

Acting Road Policing Manager Inspector Rob Morgan said information from officers suggests figures will be high, but it will be one to two weeks before the official numbers will be ready.

He said an increasing number of people had been caught using their cellphones over the April to June period this year.

Police figures showed 15,000 offence notices had been issued nationwide over the past two years for using cellphones while driving, and more than 900 people were ticketed in August and September in normal policing conditions.

As part of the exercise, a number of staff across the country have used recently-purchased long-lens cameras to catch people talking or texting on their mobile phones while driving, he said.

"We have some digital cameras now and we bought some long-range lenses to be used with those cameras. It just made that sort of enforcement a bit easier and gathered evidence."

He said officers were on the lookout for brazen offenders with their cellphones up to their face; "You can see enough of that to keep you busy."

People caught red-handed with their cellphones generally accepted they were in breach of the law, but some told officers excuses for their behaviour, he said.

"But from the officer's point of view, if they're seen with the cellphone to the ear, it's a good assumption they're using the phone."

The tickets will be collated for the next quarterly report to the Minister of Police Judith Collins, he said.

The 10-day exercise was to highlight an old issue and police could hold another blitz if necessary, he said.

"We want to say two years on from the legislation coming into force, we know that there's a potential for people to drift into old habits and to get a bit blase about things. It's about bringing it to the surface again and highlighting it."

"If we find that there's an awful lot of offending out there we'd be looking to repeat it [the blitz]. Because great results for us is no offending really."

- APNZ

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