Wearing a seatbelt and changing mobile phone habits when behind the wheel could save lives.

That's the message police are trying to get through to motorists as part of a nationwide crackdown on distracted drivers.

Operation Habit, which launched on Monday and runs until August 7, will target anyone not wearing a seatbelt or in an approved car seat as well as drivers talking, texting or checking emails on their smartphones.

A sudden increase in deaths associated with restraints not being worn - from an average of 57 per year in 2014 to 92 last year, is behind the campaign.


Nationally, between January and March this year, 41 per cent of people killed in road crashes were unrestrained at the time of the crash.

The deaths of those 28 people could have been prevented, Waikato Road Policing Senior Sergeant Phil Ruddell said.

Despite showing that wearing a seatbelt reduces the chance of death or serious injury in a crash by at least 40 per cent, far too many drivers were putting themselves and their families at risk by not using them, Ruddell said.

"Regardless of the vehicle you're in, or whether you're the driver or a passenger, the message is the same. Wear a seatbelt.

"It takes next to no time to buckle up and it could save your life."

Motorists are being reminded that all children up to the age of 7, must also be restrained in an appropriate child restraint, such as a baby capsule, toddler's car seat or and older child's booster seat.

It is also the driver's responsibility to ensure that all passengers under the age of 15 wear suitable restraints.

"It's unacceptable to put children's lives at risk by wilfully ignoring the law or failing to restrain a child where restraints are available," Ruddell said.

"The death or serious injury of any child in a crash is a tragedy. No family should ever have to bury a child whose death could have been avoided by being properly restrained while in the car."

Driver distractions, particularly those posed by talking, texting and checking emails on a mobile phone while driving, are another key target during Operation Habit.

"Drivers need to be aware of the very real risks posed by anything that diverts their attention for more than a couple of seconds."

Ruddell's advice was for driver's to put mobile phones away or hand them to a passenger to avoid being distracted by the sound of a text or call.

"Answering that call or text could put you, your passengers and other road users at risk. No phone call or text is that important."