A week-long blitz targeting people using cellphones while driving resulted in a "disturbing" by-catch which left Bay police frustrated and determined to increase the heat as Christmas approaches.
Eastern District road policing Sergeant Clint Adamson said while the total number of cellphone/driving breaches detected was still being collated, the number of people picked up for not wearing seatbelts was "alarming".
Mr Adamson was left shaking his head.
"It is very disappointing. We came across a lot of people not wearing seat restraints - the message is not getting through."
At this stage, the number of cellphone breaches appeared to be about 15 to 20, but Mr Adamson said for every cellphone breach there were many more seatbelt breaches.
At one checkpoint site the ratio was about five to 10 seatbelt breaches for every cellphone breach.
He said what police came across sadly underlined the fact that Hawke's Bay had one of the worst non-seatbelt wearing rates in the country.
What made it more disappointing for the officers running the checkpoints was that most had, in recent times, had to deal with crash scenes in which people had been killed or seriously injured as a result of not wearing a seatbelt.
"It's not as if it's a hard thing to do - just get in and clip it on."
Police also came across a number of people driving without proper child restraints.
As it was with those who were caught driving while using a cellphone, no warnings were issued.
"No, no more warnings - it's an infringement ticket," Mr Adamson said.
Cellphone breaches resulted in $80 fines and not wearing a seat restraint meant an instant $150 fine.
"And yes, we got to hear the usual excuses like 'I was only driving a short distance to the shops' and 'I normally do wear it' - that's not good enough and we have no sympathy," he said.
Despite publicity over the nationwide blitz this past week, Hawke's Bay Today photographers spent little time snapping drivers texting and using cellphones - including some at the very pedestrian crossing on Omahu Rd where 93-year-old Hastings pedestrian Phyllis Penman was killed in March 2010 after being struck by a 21-year-old motorist using his cellphone.
Mr Adamson said while the number detected appeared to be few that was not to say it was not happening and not more widespread.
He said drivers would be using them and when they saw a police car ahead they would simply put the phone down.
"But you'll see it happening all the time - I see it while I'm off duty."
While the blitz was a week-long exercise it would effectively continue with the festive season and New Year approaching, Mr Adamson said - and the detection of seatbelt breaches is high on the list.
"The last thing we want to be doing is having to go to crash scenes and scraping people off the road."
Former Hawke's Bay resident and V8 motor-racing star Greg Murphy said the penalty for using a cellphone while driving needed to be increased.
He said leaving cellphones untouched while driving was about "having respect for other motorists".
"People need to concentrate and be aware and have respect for other road users," he said.
"It's something that does need to be taken seriously.
" It's bad enough that we have as many accidents and issues as we do have in New Zealand, and that is [due to] drivers underestimating and not realising the risks associated."
There was a lack of systems in place to make drivers more aware of the risks associated with driving, with many making bad decisions and judgment calls.
"Why should someone else get caught up in the poor decisions that someone else makes?
"It's about having respect for other motorists and, unfortunately in New Zealand, not enough of that is taken into account. The fine over here in Australia is substantial and I think it needs to be more in New Zealand."
Tickets issued for cellphone use since law came into effect in 2009
- 180 issued in first year
- 218 issued in second year
- 241 issued in third year