Recent horrors on local roads and this year's aberrant national road toll are nothing short of ghoulish.

I was reminded of this when speaking this week to a police officer who recently had the burden of telling a victim's family that their loved one had been killed.

"Worst part of our job, for sure," he said.

The fraught spectre is exacerbated for those of us who have teenagers learning to drive.


When my sons earned their restricted licence it was bittersweet; we may have been high-fiving, but I was sweating on the inside.

The more you wave the finger, fulminate and caution them the more they nod in mock acknowledgement and thinly veiled sarcasm.

I know what they're thinking: Dad's a journo and has been to too many car wrecks.

Unfortunately that's true, I have seen too many - but the flipside is they've seen too few.

A number of factors scare me no end. Namely the inexperience, confidence usurping competence and pushing a one-tonne vehicle at 100km/h with only a painted median strip as barrier.

Naturally my generation faced these pressures ourselves as new drivers, but the peril we didn't wrestle with, was cellphones.

This is a game-changer.

If it's hard enough to prise phones away from our young ones at home, can we really expect they'll ignore them while driving?


Bizarrely, it's mandatory to switch off phones during air travel, yet in cars there's no "airplane mode" equivalent, despite the risk being infinitely more documented.

And of course it's not just young drivers.

Eastern police were out in numbers scrutinising motorists' cellphone use and seatbelt habits this week.

Yesterday, in a three-hour checkpoint on Omahu Rd, the following materialised: 43 motorists not wearing seatbelts, 23 using cellphones, 14 licence breaches, five children unrestrained and an idiot with excess breath alcohol at 12.30pm.

Road toll stats are at first glance inexplicable - until you run your eyes over these numbers.

"Atrocious" was how Constable Nathan Ross summed it up after the operation.

It got me thinking that rather than issuing infringement notices for cellphone users, would it be better to confiscate offenders' phones for 24 hours?

Massive inconvenience? You bet. Massive deterrent? You bet.