Tauranga police have busted a driver playing Pokemon Go while driving.

The news comes as police start a two-week campaign targeting drivers using their cellphones while driving.

Western Bay of Plenty head of road policing Senior Sergeant Ian Campion said the police had already been targeting drivers with phones over the past 18 months - contributing to the big jump in ticket numbers.

Figures released to the Bay of Plenty Times reveal 628 people were fined a total of $49,120 for using their phone while driving in 2015. This was nearly double the 367 drivers caught in 2014 and ticketed $29,360.


Mr Campion said people caught offered a range of excuses, including a recent example which involved the mobile gaming craze Pokemon Go. "Last week staff dealt with a driver using a cellphone and their excuse was they were chasing Pokemon."

Pokemon Go is a free game app that can be downloaded for an iOS or Android smartphone. The game asks players to wander their real-world neighbourhoods on the hunt for animated monsters.

Mr Campion said police had "very limited tolerance" and anyone using cellphones while driving could expect a $150 fine. He recommended people use hands-free kits or Bluetooth.

"One of the biggest crash causation issues for us in the Western Bay of Plenty, particularly in serious injury or fatal crashes, is distraction," Mr Campion said. "Part of the distraction issue is the use of cellphones.''

Yesterday, the Bay of Plenty Times surveyed northbound traffic at the intersection of 9th Ave and Cameron for 15 minutes, and spotted seven drivers using their cellphones.

Automobile Association Bay of Plenty chairman Terry Molloy said the issue was a "massive problem".

"Texting ... while driving is absolutely lethal," he said. "From my own point of view, anybody caught texting and driving should result in an automatic loss of licence. There shouldn't be any grey area."

Mr Molloy said texting was "incredibly dangerous" and worse than talking on a phone.

Nationally, distracted driving resulted in 22 deaths and 191 serious injuries in 2014, according to the NZ Transport Agency.

The agency listed cellphones as its number one distraction, with drivers engaged in texting 23 times more likely to be involved in a crash than other drivers.

The agency said sending or reading a text took a person's eyes off the road for 4.6 seconds. At 90km/h, that was like driving the length of a rugby field blindfolded.

Under the Land Transport (Road User) Rule 2004 drivers cannot use a hand-held mobile phone to make, receive or terminate a telephone call; create, send or read a text message or email; create, send or view a video message; or communicate in a similar or any other way.

Drivers could use a mobile phone to make a call while driving only if it was an emergency situation and unsafe or impracticable to stop the vehicle to make the call.