Stephanie is a senior reporter for the Rotorua Daily Post.

Rotorua police sting under way

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Rotorua police are cracking down on drivers using cellphones and not wearing seat belts as part of a nationwide sting, dubbed 'Operation Habit'. Pictured Sergeant Dave Hamilton. PHOTO/FILE
Rotorua police are cracking down on drivers using cellphones and not wearing seat belts as part of a nationwide sting, dubbed 'Operation Habit'. Pictured Sergeant Dave Hamilton. PHOTO/FILE

Rotorua police catching locals playing Pokemon Go while driving is just one "very dangerous" example of motorists being distracted by their cellphones.

As well as this, drivers around the city are still forgetting to buckle up themselves and sometimes their children, despite it taking "just two seconds".

These distractions are two focuses of a police crackdown which officially started yesterday and will run until August 7 - with random checkpoints planned around the city.

The crackdown is part of a nationwide sting dubbed Operation Habit.

Police figures show in the 12 months to March, 1786 tickets were issued in Rotorua for failure to use restraints and 405 for use of cellphones.

The Rotorua Daily Post carried out an unofficial survey at the intersection of Fenton and Amohau Sts from 3.30pm to 4pm yesterday.

During that time, five drivers were seen frequently looking down at their laps and two were seen talking on their phones (not using a hands-free device).

Nobody was seen clearly without their seat belts on.

Read more:
Too slow drivers get pinged

Sergeant Dave Hamilton of Rotorua's road policing unit said locals could expect random patrols and checkpoints leading into town.

"Operation Habit is all about focusing on what people are doing - their habits - when in a vehicle. We are particularly looking at people driving around without their seat belts on, unrestrained children in vehicles and cellphone use.

"It is crazy there are still people who do not wear their seat belts, especially when you look at the figures - from January to March this year, 41 per cent of vehicle occupants killed in crashes nationally were unrestrained.

"The thing with seat belts is that it is the easiest thing to do that could save your life. It takes just two seconds," Mr Hamilton said.

He said 15 tickets were issued for restraints and five for use of cellphones in Rotorua last week.

Anyone caught using a mobile phone while driving faces an $80 infringement fee and 20 demerit points.

"Both cellphone use and driving without restraints can be difficult to detect outside the CBD which is why we will be doing checkpoints and random patrols."

Mr Hamilton also commented on night patrols seeing people driving slowly and using their phones, attributing it in part to gaming craze, Pokemon Go.

"There have been cases of night patrols seeing motorists driving slowly with their faces lit up by their phones. Turns out it's people interacting with the Pokemon game while driving which is really very dangerous."

An increased police presence around schools could also be expected in the next two weeks, he said.

"Parents can often be in such a hurry around pick up and drop off times - maybe they're running late - they have their cellphones out and have forgotten to buckle up, either themselves or their children."

Otonga Rd Primary School principal Linda Woon welcomed the police operation.

"A big proportion of our school parents are driving to school to drop their children off as they live out of zone. We have a lot of congestion and resulting frustration which often leads to some silly behaviour.

"It makes sense police would want to increase presence around schools and we fully welcome that as it comes down to the care and wellbeing of our children."

Bay of Plenty road policing manager Brent Crowe said in-car distraction was a significant cause for concern for police.

"It is unfortunately common to see drivers speaking on their cellphones or texting while driving and the risk is too great."

He said people wearing seat belts was a real focus for Bay of Plenty police.

"The message is really quite simple, restraints won't prevent a crash but it significantly increases your chance of survival."

Mr Crowe said a positive was that the message around child restraints seemed to be sinking in around the region with fewer cases of unrestrained or improperly restrained children.

Rotorua tickets issued for restraints and cellphones
Restraints 2013: 2221
Cellphones 2013: 327
Restraints 2014: 2102
Cellphones 2014: 320
Restraints 2015: 1828
Cellphones 2015: 348
Restraints Jan-Mar 2016: 273
Cellphones Jan-Mar 2016: 91

- Rotorua Daily Post

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