A bus driver who was photographed texting and talking on a
cellphone by a passenger while driving his bus has to have a
conviction because of the seriousness of the situation, a
Grant Gordon Banks, an Auckland-based driver, who had been
driving a Naked Bus Co vehicle, appeared for sentencing in
the Whangarei District Court this week after earlier pleading
guilty to a charge of careless driving.
The police summary of facts said Banks was driving his bus
north on State Highway 1 in Northland about 11am on May 6
this year, with 10 passengers aboard. As the bus passed
Hikurangi, he was seen by a passenger sending or receiving
text messages on a cellphone.
He put that cellphone on the dashboard and got another
cellphone out and started talking on the second phone. A
passenger took a photograph of Banks using the phone while
driving and reported the matter to police.
Defence lawyer Shaun Russell asked for a discharge without
conviction for Banks, saying the consequences of a conviction
would be out of all proportion to the offending.
Mr Russell said Naked Bus provided its drivers with a company
cellphone and would text updates to the drivers if they
needed to make specific changes to pick-ups or drop offs.
He said the drivers were to check before leaving, but quite
often messages came in while they were on the road and the
drivers checked them while driving.
"He accepts he was using the work phone but he never texts on
them," Mr Russell said.
A conviction would prevent Banks from continuing his career
as a professional driver, which he had been doing for more
than 40 years, Mr Russell said. A disqualification would also
affect his ability to retain his licence to carry passengers.
Banks had no previous convictions.
But Judge Simon Maude said the summary of facts, to which
Banks pleaded guilty, made it clear that he was using a
cellphone while driving and this was supported by the
photograph taken by the passenger.
Judge Maude said the matter was too serious to discharge
Banks without conviction.
"The use of a cellphone while driving is rightly regarded by
the public as a serious risk. The seriousness, in my view,
heightened when the driver is in charge of a large vehicle
and, significantly, is a professional driver for members of
the public," the judge said.
"It's aggravated by the use of two cellphones over a
relatively prolonged period. It was a conscious act. It was
wilful and careless and exposed members of the public to
Judge Maude said a disqualification was necessary so that
when he reapplied for his P licence the authorities could
evaluate whether he was a fit and proper person to drive a
vehicle with members of the public in it.
He sentenced Banks to a $100 fine and disqualified him from
holding or obtaining any driving licences for six weeks.
- By Mike Dinsdale of The Northern Advocate