EASTER holiday motorists have been warned to put down the phone after a rise in mobile phone offences in the Hunter.
With the double demerit Operation Tortoise beginning on Thursday morning, a Newcastle Herald analysis of Office of State Revenue data reveals Hunter police last month issued nearly 60 per cent more tickets for mobile phone offences than the same time last year.
Hunter motorists were slapped with $97,126 in mobile phone fines last month compared to $56,333 the same time the year before, the data shows.
“It’s a cultural issue that’s going to take time to break down,” Hunter highway patrol supervisor Senior Sergeant Tony Grace said.
“Using your phone can severely affect your ability to respond to emergencies … there are a few studies around that compare it to drink-driving. We need people to be fully focused.”
The region’s highway patrol officers will be out in force during the long weekend targeting speeding, drink-driving, fatigue and mobile phone use.
Senior Sergeant Grace asked motorists to be patient with heavy traffic expected at pinch points including Hexham and Heatherbrae.
There have been 12 road deaths in the Hunter this year.
“That’s 12 people too many,” Senior Sergeant Grace said. “That’s 12 people who did not think it would happen to them.
“That’s 12 people who will not be going home to their families because a poor decision was made on the roads.”
Deputy Commissioner Cath Burn said statewide there had been 94 deaths on the roads this year, prompting a directive to all police officers to drive home the road safety message.
“I’m pleading with every person who uses the roads ... change one bad behaviour,” Deputy Commissioner Burn said. “If we all do that, we might be able to save more lives on our roads.”
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said road deaths “tear families apart” and “cause unimaginable grief” in towns and cities.
The double demerit points begin after midnight on Thursday and will continue until Monday night.