Cops double down on cellphone motorists

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Southern police district road policing manager Inspector Amelia Steel targeted motorists using cellphones in March. PHOTO: SHAWN MCAVINUE

Twice as many tickets were issued to motorists using a cellphone in Coastal Otago in March despite the nation being in lockdown for part of the month.

The latest road policing driver offence data for the past decade shows 153 tickets were issued to motorists using a cellphone in Coastal Otago in March this year.

The 153 tickets were the most issued to motorists using a cellphone for any March in the past decade.

The fines issued in Coastal Otago in March this year cost motorists $10,960 – more than twice the amount of fines issued last year.

Southern police district road policing manager Inspector Amelia Steel said the spike in fines was because in March police officers targeted “distracted” motorists.

The campaign focused on any activity distracting a motorist and cellphone usage was the offence easiest for officers to detect, she said.

Focus months targeting offences, such as distraction, impairment, restraints and speed, were launched in July 2018.

“If the flavour of the month is distraction we would expect to see an uplift in that enforcement.”

She thought more tickets would have been issued to motorists using cellphones in March.

“It’s only 153 tickets I’m surprised at compare it to the 21 tickets in 2018, it is a significant increase.”

Police would continue to target distracted drivers because the behaviour caused serious harm and injury, she said.

The data showed police had a role in ensuring motorists took responsibility for the safety of themselves and others, Insp Steel said.

“That’s what is alarming everyone knows, right? They shouldn’t use their mobile phone when driving.”

  • The spike in fines for cellphone use bucked the trend of other driver offences in the same month.

All the ways police ticket speeding motorists fell in March this year when compared with the month of March in the past decade.

The nation entered Alert Level 1 lockdown on March 26.

Insp Steel said lockdown resulted in a “massive reduction” in people driving, so the drop in speeding offences was unsurprising.

Tickets issued from mobile speed cameras in Coastal Otago in March plummeted to a 10-year low – 596 tickets were issued in March this year, less than a quarter of the tickets issued in March 2011.

The 394 speeding tickets issued by officers in Coastal Otago in March also dived to a 10-year-low.

The three static speed cameras in Dunedin snapped the fewest motorists in March than in any March since going live in early 2018.

The Southern Motorway static camera in Burnside snapped 445 speeding motorists in March this year – 62% of the number it ticketed in March 2018.

The static camera in Maclaggan St caught 211 speeding motorists in March this year – 47% of the number it snapped in March 2018.

The static camera in King Edward St ticketed 285 speeding motorists in March this year – 57% of the number fined in March 2018.