‘They’re flout­ing the law’

Upper Hutt Leader - - OUT & ABOUT - TOM HUNT

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.

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