A former Naked Bus driver who was nabbed texting and talking
on a cellphone could have his passenger licence permanently
revoked after he was convicted of careless driving.
Auckland-based driver Grant Gordon Banks was photographed
using the phone on State Highway 1 near Hikurangi in
Northland on May 6 this year.
He was sentenced in Whangarei District Court this week, and
was fined $100 and disqualified from holding or obtaining a
driving licence for six weeks.
Banks had 10 passengers aboard the northbound Naked Bus when
he was seen by a passenger sending or receiving text messages
on a cellphone.
He put that cellphone on the dashboard, and started talking
on another cellphone which a passenger photographed before
reporting it to police.
Defence lawyer Shaun Russell asked for a discharge without
conviction, saying a conviction would end Banks' 40-year
career as a driver.
He 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.
Mr Russell said 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
Naked Bus chief executive Hamish Nuttall said Banks was
employed by a third party contractor and no longer worked for
He said all Naked Bus drivers were instructed that cellphones
were not to be used under any circumstances while driving, in
accordance with the law.
"Passenger safety is of utmost importance to us and we
regularly remind drivers not to use their phone while driving
other than with the supplied bluetooth headpiece."
Mr Nuttall said the company used a custom-made automated
booking system that enabled information to be sent directly
to an app on a driver's phone.
"However, bookings are cut off before the bus leaves the
previous compulsory stop. There is never any need for a
driver to check any phone once behind the wheel."
NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) spokesman Andy Knackstedt said
police alerted the agency whenever a driver with a passenger
endorsement, such as a bus or taxi driver, was convicted.
If the NZTA found a driver was no longer fit and proper to
drive passengers, it could suspend their endorsement for up
to 10 years or revoke it completely.
Mr Knackstedt said it was currently reviewing Banks'
Sentencing Banks this week, Judge Simon Maude said the
summary of facts, to which Banks pleaded guilty, made it
clear he was using a cellphone while driving and this was
supported by the photograph taken by the passenger.
The matter was too serious to discharge Banks without
"The use of a cellphone while driving is rightly regarded by
the public as a serious risk. The seriousness, in my view, is
heightened when the driver is in charge of a large vehicle
and, significantly, is a professional driver for members of