Police are cracking down on distracted drivers

Dangerous driver distractions

by Mike Isle

Eating, drinking, and particularly, talking on the phone while driving could land you in hot water with the police.

Whilst eating and drinking when driving is not illegal, it could result in you being pulled over and given a friendly warning. Using your cellphone will almost certainly get you an $80 fine and 20 demerit points.

It is all in an effort by rural police in Canterbury to draw attention to the danger of being distracted while driving. Rolleston-based sergeant Alex Pickover said 20 per cent of serious crashes in Selwyn are caused by driver distraction. He said that local police would be giving more emphasis on distracted drivers as a road safety focus.

His advice to drivers is to focus on driving and nothing else.

“Eating and drinking are obvious distractions,” he said. “While they are not illegal, if a car crashes as a result of not paying attention to the road, the driver could be charged with careless driving.”

Sergeant Pickover said that for police seeing a driver looking down at their lap was a sure sign they were on their phone — possibly even reading a text.

Unruly passengers were often another distraction, he said, and if drivers were struggling to concentrate, they should ask them to quieten down.

Pets in cars can also be a problem. The main culprit is cellphones. Sergeant Pickover’s advice is to turn them off while driving, or at the very least put them on ‘Do Not Disturb’ while driving. There is a do not disturb while driving in the settings of modern iPhones and plenty of free apps that do much the same thing for most phones, he said.

He also encourages businesses to install Bluetooth devices in their fleet cars.

“Any distraction, any activity, other than concentrating on the road ahead, means you are not in control of your vehicle, and that is dangerous,” Sergeant Pickover said.