26 Feb 2020

'We need a sledgehammer approach': Crash victim applauds tough approach to phones and driving

9:47 am on 26 February 2020

A police crackdown on drivers using their mobile phones has led to a 40 percent increase in the number of fines being issued.

transportation and vehicle concept - woman using phone while driving the car

Photo: 123RF

Road safety advocates are encouraged by the numbers, saying using a cellphone is one of the most dangerous things a driver can do.

Jade Beale knows better than most the dangers cellphone use while driving poses.

She and two others were hit head-on by a driver who was focused on her mobile phone.

The offending driver died behind the wheel, while Beale and others in her car suffered horrific injuries that took years to recover from.

"I think it's great that they are really pushing it. We need a sledgehammer approach. You see it happening it so much on our roads that we really do need to push this hard."

New figures show that last year 36,000 people copped an $80 fine and 20 demerit points for using their phones while driving.

That was up more than 10,000 on the year before.

Just last month, Wellington officers at checkpoints caught 312 people using their phones.

Inspector Derek Orchard said that was too many.

Targeting mobile phone use was one of the key priorities for his team because it posed such a high risk for everyone on the road, he said.

That approach pleased the Automobile Association's road safety spokesperson, Dylan Thomsen, but he said a huge number of drivers would be getting away scot-free.

AA's own research showed one in 40 drivers used their phone on any given day.

The AA wanted to see the introduction of technology that was being used overseas to discourage cellphone use by drivers, Thomsen said.

That included mobile phone cameras. Positioned above the road, they look down on a vehicle to see if someone has a phone tucked away near the steering wheel.

New cars on the market boast technology that can tell if the driver's eyes aren't on the road, and sound alerts or hit the brakes accordingly.

And cellphone companies themselves are coming up with solutions, with some phones automatically shutting down once a vehicle is travelling at a certain speed.

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