Police cracking down on motorists using their cellphones while driving this week say many tradespeople in Northland are talking and driving.
Police nationwide are holding a week-long blitz, targeting motorists using cellphones while driving in an effort to improve road safety. Since the ban came into effect on November 1, 2009, Northland police have issued 361 infringement notices to drivers.
Strategic Traffic Unit (STU) Constable Mike Greenwood said people who were using cellphones while driving were of all ages, but police had been seeing large numbers of tradespeople talking while driving. "We are seeing plumbers, builders, electricians talking while driving quite a lot. Compliance hasn't been great in this area, hence the crackdown."
STU head Sergeant Graeme Pugh said police would rather not have to give out tickets or prosecute people for using a cellphone while driving, but people kept doing it.
"Hands-free kits are very cheap these days so there's no excuse," Mr Pugh said.
Lance Goulsbro, Acting Senior Sergeant of Road Policing for Northland, said the ban on using cellphones - other than hands-free devices - is three years old, but too many people were still flouting the rule.
On Wednesday afternoon, police stopped six motorists using cellphones within 15 minutes at Whangarei Town Basin and several more were spotted, but not able to be stopped.
"It's a road safety issue. The research shows that using a cellphone while driving increases the probability of a crash," said Mr Goulsbro.
"Using a cellphone slows a driver's reaction time because they are not concentrating totally on the road.
"It's that distraction that's the big danger here - they won't be able to react as quickly as they normally would."
The Northland police STU has stationed officers at intersections around the district watching for motorists using their cellphones.
Mr Goulsbro said police had to be surreptitious about enforcing the crackdown as if a motorist saw a police car ahead they would put their cellphone down if they were using it.