‘They’re flouting the law’
Seven years into the driver cellphone ban, record numbers of motorists are being ticketed for flouting the law.
The latest figures come as 2017 road toll has soared past the total for the same period in recent years. It now stands at almost 300.
Police figures show 28,896 drivers were ticketed for using their cellphones behind the wheel in 2016. That is more than three times as many as the 8232 ticketed in 2010, which was the first full year after the cellphone ban came in.
Road policing national manager Superintendent Steve Greally said cellphone use was a factor in the increasing number of deaths on the roads this year, along with speeding and not wearing seatbelts.
By Monday afternoon, 293 people had died on the roads in 2017, making it the worst recent year on record.
At the same point last year 251 people had died, which was then the deadliest year in at least five years.
It was still common to see people using their phones while driving, Greally said. ‘‘They are absolutely flouting the law.
‘‘What happens if a child does what a child does [and runs in front of the car]. We have to understand that, as drivers, we are the adults in the room.’’
‘‘There is a substantial number of people out there who are using their phones while driving.’’
Greally said it was difficult to say exactly how many crashes were caused by drivers using phones, as only 4 or 5 per cent of people who crashed later admitted to using a phone at the time. ‘‘When we have a fatal and put in an indepth investigation, we find a lot more people are using their phones.’’
Automobile Association spokesman Dylan Thomsen agreed the data on cellphone use from non-fatal crashes was unreliable.
But the AA’s own member surveys showed about 15 per cent of drivers admitted to illegally using phones while driving. This number had remained relatively consistent, he said.
‘‘We do know there is a substantial number of people out there who are using their phones while driving.’’
Studies have showed that using a phone to make a call behind the wheel increases the risk of crashing by a factor of four, and even more for texting or checking the internet.
New Zealand Transport Agency spokesman Harry Wilson said drivers needed to turn their phones off or put them in flight mode before getting behind the wheel.