Western Bay of Plenty's top traffic officer has vowed to target drivers using cellphones after a "totally ridiculous" number of people were caught at one of Tauranga's worst traffic choke points.
Police carried out a sting on Turret Rd yesterday targeting drivers using their mobile phones. During the 7.45am to 9.30am operation officers caught 27 offenders. Of those, 25 were women.
"It's just very surprising. I would never have imagined we would have got 27," Western Bay of Plenty acting head of road policing Sergeant Wayne Hunter said.
Similar operations in the Western Bay typically resulted in maybe eight to 12 drivers receiving tickets, he said.
"But having that amount is just totally ridiculous."
Hunter said most of the people caught were so absorbed by their phones, they did not notice the police cars or officers watching them from the side of the road.
"That's the thing. Police weren't even hiding. Police were standing on the side of the road. They were obviously so distracted they didn't even see them there. To me it's concerning."
Hunter has attended countless crashes over the years, many fatal and many caused by cellphone use. He said there was no excuse.
Of the drivers caught yesterday, some said they felt using their phone was fine because the traffic was travelling so slowly through the congestion, which was heavily backed up.
"The rules are even if you are stationary, you can't use your phone if you're in the driver's seat. That's when you get the nose-to-tails (or worse)."
Hunter said the results had prompted a renewed focus among his team to try to curb cellphone use among Bay drivers.
"I will be instructing my staff to be paying more attention and being more vigilant to people using cellphones, so people don't."
The drivers were each fined $80 and given 20 demerit points.