Former police minister was using a cellphone at speed on the motorway

Under-fire politician John Banks has been accused of breaking the law again — this time for using a cellphone while driving.

The former Cabinet minister was snapped with a phone in his hand on Auckland's Southern Motorway this month.

Aucklander Damien Spurdle took a photo of Banks on July 18. "It's not like he can't afford a hands-free device or a little cradle for his phone," Spurdle said. "As a former police minister, he should know better."

Spurdle, 24, is campaign manager for Labour Party candidate Jerome Mika. He said he was on his way to a protest at SkyCity when he saw Banks driving about 100km/h and using his phone.


He claimed Banks' actions were a recipe for disaster.

Spurdle visited the Papakura police station, where he was advised to fill out a community roadwatch report, which would most likely result in police sending a warning letter to Banks.

Papakura police said the report is regarded as a formal complaint and Spurdle is welcome to visit again if he wanted to discuss the incident further with officers.

Possible punishments for using a cellphone while driving include an $80 fine or 20 demerit points on a driver's licence.

"He's still a role model for some people and his actions reflect badly," Spurdle said.

Spurdle was a passenger when he took the photo of Banks, who was driving a Mercedes AMG C63 2011 model.

Banks did not respond to calls from the Herald on Sunday.

A police spokeswoman said using a cellphone when driving put motorists at risk.


Bay of Plenty woman Tracey O'Brien was killed and her two children were badly injured in a crash in May that was blamed on texting while driving. Her husband, Matt Ruddell, pleaded with motorists to stop using cellphones while driving.

In 1991, when Minister of Police, Banks was fined $750 for answering his early-model mobile phone on a flight.

Last month, the former Cabinet minister was found guilty of filing a false electoral return. His sentencing is due next month at the Auckland High Court.

Under the Land Transport (Road User) Rule, it is illegal when driving to make, receive, or terminate a phone call. It's also illegal to text, email, or watch videos on your phone when driving.

An exception exists for when a driver calls 111 or *555.

- Additional reporting John Weekes
Dial D for disaster

• 684 people were caught every month using a cellphone while driving in 2010.
• An average of 1127 people were caught each month using a cellphone while driving in 2013.
• There were 46,446 recorded offences for using a cellphone while driving between November 1, 2009 (when the law was introduced) to January 31 this year.
• 10 per cent of fatal and serious injury crashes are at least partly caused by distraction.

- Source: Ministry of Transport