Rotorua police ticketed more than 50 people in two hours for using their cellphone or not wearing a seatbelt as part of a priority crackdown on distracted driving.

Senior Sergeant Denis Murphy, who leads the Rotorua police traffic unit, said it was "really, really scary" to see such a high volume of offenders in such a short space of time.

In a one-hour checkpoint on Thursday and one-hour checkpoint on Friday police gave out 39 tickets for not wearing a seatbelt and 14 tickets for using a cellphone while driving.

Murphy said those were behaviours that put the drivers and others in the community at risk.


"We see some horrendous behaviour relating to cellphone usage. Distractions like using a cellphone have a significant impact on driving.

"Texting is a lot of what we see and we know the likelihood of a crash happening is drastically increased if the driver is distracted for even two seconds."

The road toll in Rotorua is six so far this year and Murphy said distraction was a factor in several of those deaths.

"Not wearing a seatbelt or using a cellphone significantly contributes to crashes, particularly the serious and the fatal.

"Our focus is about reducing and preventing trauma on our roads and if we have to issue infringements to get that message across then we will."

Murphy said in 26 per cent of deaths on the road in 2017 the person was not wearing a seatbelt.

"The evidence shows wearing a seatbelt reduces the risk of fatality by 60 per cent for front seat passengers and by 40 per cent for the back seat.

"It clearly makes sense to buckle up."


Chances are pretty high you're going to get caught, Murphy said.

"People have just got to take responsibility for themselves when it comes to their in-car behaviour.

"We're also asking them to influence their family and friends to put the cellphone down and put their seatbelt on when they're driving."

Seatbelt law
- If you sit in a seat with a seatbelt you must wear it.
- There is an instant $150 fine for not wearing a seatbelt.
- All children under 7 must be secured in an approved child restraint when travelling in cars or vans.
- It is advised any child 14 or under travels in the back seat.
- If you are 15 or over and drive or ride in a vehicle without wearing a seatbelt you can be fined.
- If you are the driver you can be fined if you have a passenger under 15 riding in your vehicle without wearing a seatbelt or child restraint

Cellphone law
- The penalty for using a phone when driving is an $80 fine and 20 demerit points.
- It is against the law for drivers to make, receive or terminate a telephone call, to create, send or read a text message or email, to create, send or view a video message or communicate in a similar or any other way.
- New Zealand Transport Agency