Campaign targets distracted motorists

Drivers have admitted internet banking, writing Facebook posts and even playing games on their smartphones while behind the wheel.

The disturbing behaviour is revealed in an Auckland Transport survey as the council-controlled body today launches a new campaign encouraging motorists to publicly shame other road users for bad driving habits.

The "Oi" campaign will feature film clips at cinemas, postings on social media and billboards around the Auckland region.

AT community transport manager Claire Dixon said motorists diced with death when they were distracted. It was hoped the campaign would move passengers and other motorists to note the behaviour of distracted drivers - including those on smartphones - and offer safe-driving tips.


"The focus is on driving and not the smartphone," Dixon said.

Police figures show that between 2009-13 mobile phone use was a contributing factor for the deaths of five people and the serious injury of eight others on Auckland roads.

In the same period 21 people died on New Zealand roads as a result of cellphone distraction.

It is an offence to use a mobile phone for any reason while driving unless it is dash mounted and hands free.

It is also illegal to use phones while stopped at a red light. People who flout the law can expect an $80 spot fine and 20 demerit points.

But the findings of the AT survey of 211 drivers, suggest the message is not getting through.

Of those surveyed, 66 per cent said they used the phone for calls, 61 per cent for text conversations while driving, and 56 per cent admitted using a smartphone app when behind the wheel, including checking Facebook and Instagram accounts, Google maps, accessing music account Spotify and Skyping.

Respondents even confessed to doing their banking at the same time as navigating Auckland roads.

Dixon said the use of Google maps was a particular challenge as it was designed to be useful when driving.

Drivers weren't taking their eyes off the road just to use their smartphones either. Dixon said other distractions on the roads included drivers reading books, eating their breakfast and using their car as a portable beauty salon.

"I regularly see a man shaving and brushing his teeth heading on the motorway at Waterview," said Dixon.

Auckland Transport's new campaign comes as recent national police figures show cellphone use is getting worse with 21,538 drivers pinged for using phones last year compared to 13,953 in 2013.

Police, who are supporting AT's campaign, confirmed this week they would be launching a crackdown next week targeting distracted drivers in the Auckland region.

Counties Manukau Road Policing Unit Senior Sergeant Mark Chivers said previous operations had detected a high number of drivers using their cellphones or playing music, navigating, checking calendar entries or browsing social media.