Don’t hold the phone

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Over three years, motorists in the coastal Otago region parted with $132,000 in fines for using cellphones in their vehicles, police statistics show.

In the years 2014 to 2016, 1701 fines for using mobile phones were issued in the region.

The largest annual number (661) occurred last year, reaping $51,760 in fines.

Ministry of Transport road crash data for the same three years shows there were five minor injury crashes in Dunedin where cellphone use was a contributing factor and no serious injury or fatal crashes.

Asked if fining people for using mobile phones was a good use of police resources when the number of crashes had been so small, acting road policing manager Senior Sergeant Steve Larking said any type of driver distraction, including the use of phones while driving, was a road safety concern.

“This type of distraction increases the risk of drivers crashing, which not only risks their own safety but also the safety of their passengers and other people in our community.”

The police focus was not strictly on the use of mobile phones but all risks to road users.

“This includes unsafe behaviour such as speeding, not wearing seatbelts, alcohol and drug impairment and failing to comply with traffic signals and other intersection offences.”

In the first three months of 2017, 134 mobile offences had been logged in coastal Otago, generating fines totalling $10,720.

 

THE PENALTIES

Anyone stopped by police for using a mobile phone while driving can be fined $80 plus 20 demerit points

Texting and cycling is illegal, although police say they have not noticed large numbers of cyclists doing this.

Coastal Otago fines for using mobile phones in vehicles

The total number of offences in 2014 was 552, in 2015 it was 488 and in 2016 it was 661.

Total fines were $41,680 in 2014, $38,560 in 2015 and $51,760 in 2016 .

The coastal Otago policing region covers Dunedin, Waitaki and Clutha districts.