Drivers ignore cellphone ban - Stuff.co.nz

28-May-2011

Three years into a ban on motorists using handheld cellphones, the numbers of those getting caught keeps rising - as does the death toll.

Police figures show 28 people have died on New Zealand roads in accidents caused by people using cellphones since 2007.

Thousands more have been ticketed for driving while using their phone with Aucklanders leading the way. 

Between November 2011 and October 2012, 5897 motorists were caught driving while using their phone in Auckland out of a total of 12,538 nationally. 

Of those caught in Auckland, 2413 were in the Waitemata district, 2333 in Auckland city and 1151 in Counties Manukau.

The Canterbury district was the single worst district for the offending last year with 2823 drivers being fined. 

The previous year Auckland city led statistics with 2156 drivers being fined. Waitemata was second with 1749. 

Auckland city also led the way between November 2009 and October 2010 with 1850 motorists being fined. 

Motorists caught driving while using their cellphone are fined $80 and get 20 demerit points, meaning last year alone more than $1 million of fines were handed out. 

Road policing national manager Carey Griffiths said the rise of smartphones, which people could check social media and emails on, was adding to the problem.

''There is the opportunity for more and more distraction as we are getting more and more wired.''

The number of motorists caught nationally jumped 1041 last year and 4628 from the 2009-2010 financial year.

Griffiths said the rising figures could be the result of more people breaking the law or greater police vigilance. 

''The feedback we are getting is there are plenty of people out there willing to quite blatantly drive around [using] a cellphone.''

Figures, released under the Official Information Act, show that during the past financial year, 149 crashes were thought to be caused by cellphone use.

But Griffiths thought the real number was much higher as many drivers wouldn't admit to using their phone if involved in an accident.

In December 2011, Jade Beale, 25, experienced first-hand the dangers of texting while driving.

Returning home to Tokoroa from Christmas shopping in Hamilton, Beale was sleeping in the back seat of the car with her younger sister Renee driving and friend Arianna Ashworth in the passenger seat.

Just north of Tirau, a driver coming the other way crossed the centre line and slammed into their car.

The female driver of the other car died at the scene, while the two sisters had to be cut from their car.

Ashworth needed surgery to fix facial lacerations.Renee needed a leg reconstruction after splitting her femur in half, crushing her knee cap and snapping her shin and suffered numerous other broken bones.

Beale suffered 10 broken ribs, a broken sternum and broken collar bone.

''I punctured my lung, knocked my heart and my stomach was twisted to the side - the muscles sheered away from the lining, so I had to have a lot of surgery to have my stomach put back together, this included removing part of my intestines and stopping internal bleeding,'' she said.

After the accident, Senior Sergeant Fane Troy said initial investigations showed the driver of the other car, Paula Jessep, 37, of Hamilton, was ''in the midst of a text conversation'' when the crash happened.

Now the trio who survived the crash are campaigning to educate people of the dangers of using handheld cellphones while driving.

Beale yesterday said the rise in people being caught showed police were taking the issue seriously.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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