Drivers finding it hard to give up cellphone habit

Palmerston North's drivers are still using their cellphones while driving, a police blitz on cellphone use in moving cars has found.

Response Manager Senior Sergeant Phil Skoglund said for the past three weeks, Palmerston North police had been focusing on the use of cellphones, seatbelts and driver behaviour at intersections, to coincide with a national operation with the same focus starting on Monday.

Officers were catching on average three to five drivers a week talking on their cellphones.

He said it migh not sound like a lot, but that was 15 to 20 people who had to be reminded to keep their full attention on the road.

People caught talking on cellphones while driving were fined $80 and were given 20 demerit points. One hundred points meant a loss of licence and demerit points that lasted for two years before they expired.

Intersections being targeted were those at Rangitikei St and Tremaine Ave, and where Ruahine St intersects with Featherston St, Main St and Tremaine Ave.

The area between Featherston St and Tremaine Ave was of particular concern, as it was narrow and busy with traffic from the hospital.

Those areas had been identified as trouble spots and just having a police presence there, ensuring people stopped and generally stuck to the road rules had seen a dramatic reduction in incidents, Mr Skoglund said.

The accident trouble spots did change occasionally, for example, if there was a bad instance of sunstrike, but accidents were mostly down to a combination of time of day, physical location, and poor decision-making, he said.

Failing to use seatbelts was an ongoing concern, particularly for passengers seated at the back of vehicles.

Manawatu Standard