More than 60 people have been caught using their mobile phones while driving in a police operation targeting two busy Tauranga streets.

But one of Tauranga's top traffic cops says the numbers are a snapshot of a much wider problem.

Five one-hour stings targeting mobile phone users were held on Turret Rd and Totara St in Mount Maunganui on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday.

Acting head of Western Bay of Plenty road policing Sergeant Wayne Hunter said many more people could have been fined "but our officers were constantly tied up with other people on their phones, they couldn't get to them".


Police data reveals the number of Western Bay of Plenty people fined for mobile phone offences while driving more than doubled from 314 in 2013 to 702 last year.

"People don't believe it's an issue they need to take responsibility for."

Hunter said offending drivers did not seem to consider a child could be walking across the road, they could swerve into an occupied cycle lane or the car in front could stop suddenly.

"We see nose-to-tail crashes all the time. While a lot of those crashes result in minor damage, they cause a big backlog of traffic," Hunter said.

"It's totally selfish and irresponsible behaviour."

A 28-year-old Te Puke woman, who spoke on condition of anonymity, admitted she often texted and checked her emails while driving but was not able to say why she did it.

"People don't take it seriously enough. I don't. But how do you stop people?"

A 50-year-old woman, who would not be named, said she stopped texting while driving because "I've had a couple of close calls of nearly hitting things".


These days she called people and spoke to them on speaker while holding her phone below the window line, she said.

A 25-year-old Mount Maunganui woman, who also spoke in confidence, said texting while driving was not worth it and rules were in place for everyone's safety on the roads.

"That person who messaged can wait," she said.

"I don't want to lose someone I love to a silly text message."

Joint Road Safety Committee chairwoman Margaret Murray-Benge said people did not appear to prioritise road safety while driving, judging by the region's rate of crashes.

"There's no excuse for people in these beautiful big cars to be on their phones," the Western Bay councillor said.

"People should care a little bit more about what they do. The accident rate here is appalling."

On Monday, the Bay of Plenty Times reported local injury and fatal crashes increased 35.8 per cent in the 2017/18 year. The Tauranga City Council's report showed of the 243 people involved, four people died and 56 were seriously injured.

The report described the increase as "a significant deterioration in road safety" that was "extremely disappointing".

AA's Bay of Plenty district council chairman Terry Molloy, who is a Tauranga councillor, said people were feeling more pressured while driving and "there's a large mobile phone use [while driving] which is a real distraction".

It would take the entire roading community, including agencies and all users, working together to make positive change, he said.