Ticket flurry in police blitz on cellphone drivers

By Mathew Dearnaley

790 tickets were issued nationally during the 7-day blitz last month. Photo / File
790 tickets were issued nationally during the 7-day blitz last month. Photo / File

A week-long police crackdown on cellphone driving offences has seen a surge in the issuing of tickets.

Police dished out 790 tickets nationally during the seven-day blitz last month, pushing the November total to 1736. October's total was 1156.

Superintendent Carey Griffiths, the national road policing manager, said yesterday the latest results reflected the effort put into the blitz by his patrols rather than the extent of offending against the ban on using hand-held cellphones while driving.

But he was particularly disappointed that the number of drivers caught dividing their attention between phone calls or text messages and the perils of the road had continued to rise steadily during the three years of the prohibition.

There have been at least 28 phone-related road deaths since early 2007, including two this year and that of a woman killed after allegedly sending 19 text messages during a 45-minute trip by herself from Rotorua to Tirau three days before last Christmas.

That figure was provided by a police witness to an inquest in Rotorua this week into the death of 37-year-old Paula Jessep.

Although the most recent was sent about 15 minutes before her Toyota Rav 4 collided head-on with a Nissan Sunny on State Highway 1, injuring all three occupants of the other vehicle, Senior Sergeant Fane Troy said he found a half-written text message on Ms Jessep's phone after the crash.

The latest 12-month offending total was running at 12,538 yesterday, compared with 9512 a year ago and 7710 in 2010.

Although a district-by-district breakdown for the week of the blitz was unavailable yesterday, Auckland police issued 794 tickets to drivers caught talking or texting on phones during November.

The three Auckland police districts accounted for 46 per cent of the national total, also reflecting their annual share. In Northland, 24 drivers were caught, in the Waikato 78, Bay of Plenty 91, Wellington 86 and Canterbury 405.

Mr Griffiths vowed that police would stay vigilant against distracted drivers over the holiday period, and not just those seen on the phone.

He, meanwhile, reminded drivers that police will not tolerate speeds of more than 4km/h above legal limits from 4pm yesterday until 7am on January 7. That compares with a standard tolerance of up to 10km/h above speed limits.

- NZ Herald

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