Exclusive: Police bust of drivers using phones catches one every three minutes - including Government CEO

A police bust of drivers using their phones has caught one every three minutes - including the chief executive of a Government department.

For our latest 'Because It Matters', Newshub has been out with police catching people in the act.

Police are on the watch for drivers distracted by their phones - and it doesn't take long. It's a busy rush-hour, and drivers are busy too - on their phones. Today, police are out to get them.

"There's one down there now, look. See, in the car," says Sgt Dave Townsend. "The phone was in his right hand and he was texting."

Police are running the operation in the Mt Victoria Tunnel. Townsend spots people using their phone and he calls it in.

"Female driver, phone right hand, appears to be texting," he tells his counterpart.

Waiting for them at the other end with their license plate number and vehicle description is the rest of the police, ready to give them a ticket.

One driver caught is the chief executive of a government department, who did not want to be identified. He questioned what the rules were for using a cellphone while driving.

Another person caught says she was using her cellphone to play music. This will cost her $80 and 20 demerit points.

"I guess it's fair, I shouldn't have been using it," she told Newshub. "But I think a lot of people do, and maybe more awareness that we shouldn't be doing it, or being more aware of how often we are on our phone while we are driving."

Insp Juliet Burgess says there is zero tolerance.

"There's no excuse that's reasonable. They need to just put their cellphones away."

Our addiction: a dangerous distraction


It is coming up to 10 years since New Zealand banned using phones while driving -  and the number of people caught has tripled.

It started with just over 8000 in 2010 before rising to a record 28,900 in 2016. And it's forecast to hit a record-high of more than 29,000 in 2019.

It ends - and ruins - lives. This is the death toll: 41 people have been killed in phone-related accidents since the ban came in. Another 109 have been seriously injured.

Then there is the inconvenience it can cause. Police are blaming phone-related minor crashes as a major cause of rush-hour gridlock.

"We get a lot of nose to tail crashes on the state highway going out of Wellington, a lot of those are caused by distraction, and that can hold the whole city up for hours," Townsend says.

So what do we do about breaking this addiction?


Let's start with the fine of $80. In the United Kingdom - it is a $370 fine - and you lose half your demerit points in one go.

In the state of British Columbia in Canada, it's a $620 fine.

In Australia, Queensland is planning a $1040 fine - and on the second infringement, you lose your licence.

We asked the Government what it's doing to get people off their phones while driving.

The answer is not a lot. Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter says they will be "consulting early next year" on fines.

On Monday, Newshub brings you the story of someone seriously injured by a texting driver who was killed, and looks at countries that are doing something to stop this.


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