Caught on camera: Auckland drivers using phones to text and call ahead of fine hike

Caught on camera: Auckland drivers using phones to text and call ahead of fine hike

Stuff has captured numerous drivers using cellphones while driving in Ponsonby, Auckland, as the Government hikes fines for using phones at the wheel.

Drivers have been captured on camera boldly using their phones while driving, to video call, text and make calls.

The footage, taken in Auckland, comes as the Government increased the cost of a fine for using a cellphone while driving from $80 to $150.

Over the course of a week, ahead of the fine increase, a Stuff visual journalist captured numerous people using their phones while driving, including a woman who appeared to be on a video call while passing through an intersection, a man speaking on the phone and numerous people texting or looking at their phone.

Last year, police issued more than 40,000 infringement notices for the offence.

READ MORE: * Higher fines for cellphone use 'no silver bullet' to curb distracted driving - AA * Thousands of Kiwis still use phones while driving - do we need bigger fines? * Texting and driving NZ law lenient as France bans phones even when pulled over * One in three Kiwis think it's fine to use their phone while driving

A driver for Dingo Groundworx NZ was captured using their phone while driving a truck along Williamson Ave, in Ponsonby.

Owner Cameron Hadley told Stuffall employees were very aware they should not be using their phones while driving.

He said he would be raising the issue in a staff meeting.

AA road safety spokesman Dylan Thomsen told Stuffhe wasn’t surprised to hear about the woman video calling while driving.

While AA supports the Government’s fine increase, Thomsen said it wasn’t going to solve the problem.

“People just can’t resist the temptation if they hear their phone go off ... it’s not something you do by accident.”

“A lot of people use their phone behind the wheel and don’t do other risky things.”

He hopes as there are further advancements in technology, phone companies can have default “do not disturb” modes that activate as soon as drivers start moving in their car.

“Until we change the mindset it will be hard with enforcement alone, people don’t appreciate the risks until it’s too late,” Thomsen said.

Caroline Perry, the New Zealand director for road charity Brake, said it was inexcusable that so many people were still putting their life, and the lives of others, at risk.

She agreed with Thomsen and hopes the increase will deter drivers, but says the penalty is still “extremely low” compared to other countries.

Some states across the ditch have an instant $1000 (AUD) for texting while driving, while in the United Kingdom it’s a £200 ($385 NZD) fine and the driver will lose their licence if they passed their test in the past two years.

Perry said there was a “huge amount” of evidence about the risks involved while using a phone at the wheel.

“You’re dividing your brain between tasks, which means you won’t be fully concentrating on the road.

“You’re less likely to spot hazards and will be slower to react if something unexpected happens.”

Transport Minister Michael Wood previously said the fine increase would encourage safer driving with too many people still using their phones behind the wheel.

“Driver distraction is a serious road safety issue, and inattention – including from mobile phones – can have tragic consequences,” Wood said in a statement.

“Increasing the infringement fee to $150 means it will now match similar offences. This is our way of saying Kiwis need to take this seriously and put away the phone while driving.”

It's been illegal for drivers to use a hand-held mobile phone to make, receive or terminate a call, since 2004.

It is also illegal to create, send or read a text message, email or video message, or use a hand-held phone in any other way while driving.

This includes using a phone when the car is stationary during the “normal starting and stopping of vehicles in a flow of traffic”.

The only exception aslaid out in the lawis if the phone is “secured in a mounting fixed to the vehicle” and the driver only looks at or uses it “infrequently and briefly”.