The dangerous phone behaviours of Lower Hunter drivers have been revealed in a recent one day police operation which caught 66 motorists on their mobiles.
The alarming statistics found in Maitland, Cessnock and Port Stephens were almost doubled in Newcastle and Lake Macquarie, where another 125 drivers were nabbed for the offence.
“That’s a huge problem,” Hunter Highway Patrol supervisor Senior Sergeant Tony Grace said. “It’s pervasive behaviour.”
“If you’re travelling at 60km/h, every second you take your eyes off the road you travel 16 metres. That’s the length of an Olympic swimming pool in a few seconds.”
The numbers are so worrying that police will launch a major offensive this week.
While the most recent operation involved officers on foot, just one police motorbike was used. That capability will increase six-fold this week.
Six marked motorcycles and one unmarked car have been brought in to hit the streets of Maitland, Cessnock and Port Stephens until Friday and again in September.
“We have a few bikes stationed here permanently, but it’s rare that people would see a large group of them,” Senior Sergeant Grace said.
Police will target mobile phone use, speeding and seat belt offences.
The bikes allow police to spot drivers using phones in their laps, a problem Senior Sergeant Grace said has increased with less people calling and more texting.
He said even using a phone while stopped in traffic was a huge danger.
“When you’re driving your only job is to drive the vehicle, even when it’s stationary,” he said. “If you miss a light change, it can cause congestion which leads to frustration in other drivers.”
Senior Sergeant Grace said the bikes would also help officers squeeze into tighter spots to detect speeding and be more agile in peak traffic.
He said the idea was to be more visible, refuting the notion it was just to catch more drivers.
“Motorcycles are more effective in targeting these offences, but they’re still a visual deterrent,” he said. “We’re telling the public we’re going to be out there. There has been multiple warnings.”