A police blitz on drivers using their mobile phones has won the full backing of the AA.
This week's blitz, which runs until Sunday, will be targeting drivers talking or texting on non-hands free phones, three years on from it becoming illegal.
''Unfortunately, you do not have to be on the road for long to see a driver with their phone help up to their ear or texting,' AA spokesperson Dylan Thomsen, said.
''Law-abiding motorists are getting sick and tired of seeing other drivers flouting the law and putting them at risk.''
Numerous studies have shown that using a cellphone when you are driving increases your crash risk by as much as 400 per cent and the people still using their phones need to realise this.
''The AA believes that a lot of drivers still using their mobile don't realise how risky it is.
''When you are talking or texting on your phone you are less focussed on what is happening on the road around you, you are more likely to miss seeing something and your reaction time will be slower.
''This police blitz will hopefully get some of those still using their mobile to realise it's not worth the risk and leave the phone alone for good.''
Superintendent Carey Griffiths, National Manager-Road Policing says that the campaign is timed to remind drivers of need to be aware of the very real risk that distractions represent, especially talking on cellphones.
"But distraction can come in many forms - changing the CD, unrestrained pets, quarrelling children, things rolling round in the car, eating, putting on make-up, to name a few common ones that we come across," he said.
Drivers illegally using their cellphone are not just putting themselves and others at much greater risk, but also face an $80 fine and 20 demerit points if caught. The AA believes that if some drivers continue to flout the law, then increasing the penalties for the offence should be considered.
''There is simply no excuse for a driver to be on their phone illegally. If you simply have to talk or text someone, pull over,'' Thomsen said.
Although the legislation allows the use of hands-free mobile phones, Police are recommending that drivers minimise the potential for distraction by switching phones off while driving, or pulling over to make or receive calls.
"We are now several years down the track, we don't see any excuses for people still failing to comply with this legislation," Griffiths added.
"We will be taking a very firm approach and Police will be out nationwide doing their best to impress upon drivers how serious we are about this issue."
For those that find it difficult to not reply to a text when they are driving, the AA endorses the Drivesafe service which is free for Vodafone customers. If you text ''Drive on'' to 760 your phone will then automatically send a reply to incoming texts letting the person know you are currently driving and will get back to them later. Once you have finished driving, text ''Drive off'' to 760 and your phone reverts to normal.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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