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Police driving home cellphone message

By Chelsea Boyle

[email protected]

Police statistics over the past eight years paints a telling picture about Wairarapa drivers.

While the long-standing road safety messages of staying sober and buckling up seatbelts appear to have gotten through, many Wairarapa drivers are seemingly refusing to put their phones down while driving.

Cellphone offences have crept upwards over the years, reaching a high of 118 last year with the fines totalling $9200.

For safety reasons using handheld phones to talk or text while driving was prohibited from November 2009.

The penalty drivers face for breaking this law an $80 fine and 20 demerit points.

In the years since 2009, cellphone driving offences in Wairarapa has only dipped once, to 106 in 2015, a mere blip from 107 the previous year.

The national annual total has also never shown a hint of slowing, hitting a peak of 28,738 cellphone offences last year.

In Wairarapa seatbelt offences, which includes children who are not in the correct restraints, tells a different story with last year’s 501 tally the lowest it has been since 2012.

The high was hit in 2014 with 911 tickets issued for a total of $135,000 in fines.

Alcohol specific offences also dropped last year to 207, the lowest since 2009.

The problem with cellphones has not gone unnoticed and became the focus of a New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) campaign launched in March last year.

The advertisements were comically set to the tune of Lionel Richie’s Hello and depicted drivers reaching for the phone but accidentally touching or holding hands with the passenger instead.

According to the NZTA website, the campaign specifically targeted young drivers in their 20s who constantly used their mobile phones and aimed to make them think of the passenger.

Acting Road Policing Manager for the Wellington District Jan Craig said part of the problem with phones was that they are being used for an increasingly wide range of purposes.

When people were pulled over they often replied, “I was just skipping to the next song on my iPhone”, she said.

“So they are using their phones for something that is not texting … they don’t realise that is still an offence.

“It’s the same with watches that are linked to the phone, that’s also an offence because it is linked to the phone.”

It had become a focus for police, and had been a focus for some time – something that would be a contributing factor to the recorded rise in offences.

“It’s something we continue to focus on.”

She recommended that people use handsfree holders for their phones.

“Any distraction in cars can result in fatality or serious injury.”

She said making sure people were wearing seatbelts remained a focus for police.

“We haven’t stopped looking for that kind of offending.

“Good on the Wairarapa public for actually wearing their seatbelts.”

In the past, campaigns that targeted children, such as Buckle up Buttercup, had been particularly effective as children often reminded their parents as well, she said.

“That’s our focus, to change behaviour to save lives.”

She recalled an incident in Canterbury late last year when a van carrying a family rolled.

They were all wearing seatbelts and they all survived a serious crash, she said.

Wairarapa Police Area Commander Inspector Donna Howard said police needed drivers to make good decisions to ensure their own safety and prevent the significant harm caused by road crashes.

“You only have to look at the number of deaths and serious harm on our roads to know that, collectively, we all need to do better,” she said.

“Good decisions are as simple as ensuring that drivers and passengers wear seatbelts every time they get into a vehicle, that they drive to the conditions and within the speed limit, that drivers put their cellphones away so they are not tempted to use it while driving and by not driving when they’ve been drinking,”  she said.








  1. How come we still see police officers using cell phones whilst driving? Whats good for the goose is good enough for the gander. Other words, tidy up your own backyard first.

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