Thousands still using phones while driving

Last updated 13:22 06/12/2013
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Thousands of drivers are using their cellphones at any one time on New Zealand roads, a survey of 29,000 moving vehicles shows.

The Ministry of Transport survey carried out at 52 sites around the country in June found that one in every 40 drivers was using a phone.

Half of the errant drivers were spotted holding phones to their heads, while the other half appeared to be texting.

The survey found that when vehicles were stationary, the number of users doubled to one in 20, with most of the drivers texting.

Using cellphones while driving was outlawed in 2009.

Associate Transport Minister Michael Woodhouse urged drivers to stop using cellphones.

"These results are of grave concern as the consequences of using a cellphone while driving can be disastrous," he said.

"We've seen some high-profile crashes in recent times where cellphone use has been a contributor to the crash.

"Using a cellphone while driving may seem a minor offence on the face of it, but for some New Zealanders it will be the difference between a long life or an early death."

Ministry policy manager Leo Mortimer said the survey was a snapshot of a driver's journey, and cellphone use would probably be even higher than the results suggested.

Drivers could not properly drive while using a cellphone, he said.

The survey found that Wellington drivers were the most likely to be making a phone call while driving and Aucklanders the most likely to be texting.

Drivers in urban centres had a higher rate of phone usage, which carries a penalty of 20 demerit points and an $80 fine.

More research is likely to be carried out this year.

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