648 Waikato motorists caught flouting cellphone law
Waikato motorists continue to flout new cellphone legislation with an increasing number ticketed during the almost two years it has been in force.
Since the legislation banning the use of hand-held cellphones while driving came into effect in November 2009, some 648 people have been stopped and issued the mandatory $80 infringement notice.
But what is disturbing Waikato road policing manager Inspector Leo Tooman is that the district is likely to surpass last year's total.
From November 2009 to October last year, 344 tickets were issued – but in the nine months to July 31 this year, 304 tickets were issued.
In the first month the law was in force, the lowest number of tickets was issued (20), while December 2010 had the highest number, with 44.
"When a new law comes in there's so much publicity and people comply and then when it's been around for a while people relax," Mr Tooman said.
"I know when I'm driving around in my own car I see a lot of people on a cellphone and you get in a marked patrol car and they disappear on you."
Mr Tooman admitted it could be difficult for officers trying to spot someone using their cellphone and they stopped them only if they saw the phone at their ear. "Because they are reasonably hard to pick up, particularly on a highway, there's a lot of people that make up they're scratching their ear."
Those who appeared in court either did not pay their fine or were fighting the ticket, he said.
Mr Tooman said the easiest way to avoid a ticket, or a possible crash, was to turn cellphones off while driving.
"It's not holding the phone against your ear it's your concentration on the conversation and having to respond to that because it's not like listening to a CD or a radio playing in the background, it takes a lot more concentration to engage in a telephone conversation."
Waikato man, Brad Osborne, is all too familiar with the dangers of using his cellphone and driving after he crashed into the back of a car while driving on State Highway 3 at Motonui in February leaving Taranaki woman Dianna Robins a tetraplegic.
Mr Osborne, of Ngatea, will be sentenced on three charges of dangerous driving causing injury in the Thames District Court next month. An emotional Mr Osborne, who was checking his text messages when he crashed, told the Taranaki Daily News earlier this month how thankful he was that Mrs Robins had forgiven him for his actions.
"My eyes fill with tears just thinking about how understanding and forgiving she is ... It is a pretty sick feeling when you know you are in an ambulance with a lady and she's saying to the ambulance officer that she can't feel her legs."
He also spoke to 400 students at Paeroa College earlier this month about the dangers of using a cellphone while driving.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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