If you eat, drink or use your phone behind the wheel in Canterbury, chances are you'll soon see flashing lights.

For the remainder of the year, police in the district will regularly target drivers who are not paying full attention to the road.

The aim of the crackdown is to reduce the number of crashes caused by mobile phone use and other distractions, Sergeant Alex Pickover said.

"There have been tickets issued for using a cellphone while driving, we've been doing checkpoints around the Selwyn District in relation to cellphone usage."


For using a mobile phone while driving, drivers can get an $80 fine and 20 demerit points.

It is not illegal to eat or drink behind the wheel, but if a car crashes as a result of not paying attention to the road, the driver could be charged with careless driving or careless driving causing injury.

Distractions can also include music devices, food and drink, driving information screens, other passengers or scenery, he said.

"It's a distraction because you're not in proper control of the vehicle," Pickover said.

According to the New Zealand Transport Agency, pets can also cause distraction.

To crack down on distracted drivers, officers will patrol on foot to look for distracted drivers, and then pass on the offending vehicle's details to a patrol car nearby to pull the driver over.

The latest statistics breakdown on distracted drivers from 2017 was a "big concern".

"When we see people looking down towards the lap, it's obviously a sign that they're on their phone. It's not rocket science," Pickover said.


He advised drivers to switch off mobile phones or to turn it on "do not disturb" while driving.

"Make sure the radio is in the right station before pulling off. If you're unfamiliar with the route you're going on check on a map before you're starting the journey," Pickover said.

"If people are struggling to concentrate because of passengers, ask them to settle down or quiet down."

Pickover also encouraged businesses to provide employees with Bluetooth devices in fleet cars.

Crashes from distractions nationwide in 2017

Deaths – 40

Serious injuries – 240

Minor injuries – 1187

Source: NZTA