Police looking for motorist who let kid drive while texting

A child sitting on the lap of a woman texting while driving on the Southern Motorway. Photo:...
A child sitting on the lap of a woman texting while driving on the Southern Motorway. Photo: Supplied
Police are appealing for help to identify a motorist photographed allowing a child to take the wheel while she was driving on Auckland's Southern Motorway.

A witness captured an image of the driver, head down and on a phone, while a child sat on her lap, in peak hour traffic yesterday.

The photo supplied to the Herald showed the child with both hands on the steering wheel.

While police were not aware of receiving a report of the incident, Auckland Motorways Police Sergeant Andrew Meale urged anyone who could have relevant information, to get in touch.

Meale said it was a reminder for drivers to ensure all occupants in a vehicle were properly restrained.

"Wearing your seatbelt and making sure your children are properly restrained will keep you and your children safe, as even a low speed impact can cause to great deal of harm to an unrestrained child.

"Keeping children restrained at all times when they are travelling in a vehicle also reduces the risk of the driver getting distracted, which could potentially pose a risk to the safety of other road users," Meale said.

Meale also took the chance to remind motorists it was "never safe" for a driver to take photographs from a vehicle in active traffic lanes.

"We also want to urge motorists who witness anyone driving dangerously to report it to Police at the earliest opportunity but most importantly when it is safe to do so."

Speaking to the Herald following the incident, the witness said her attention was first brought to the car when she spotted a kid "jumping around" on the front seat.

"He's jumping around and she's play-fighting and next thing he disappeared and I saw him jump into the driver's seat.

"She moved into the left lane and I got alongside her and I saw her texting on the phone and the kid driving the car, she wasn't even holding the steering wheel."

The motorist said the incident occurred in the Manukau area about 5pm.

Peak hour traffic was moving slowly initially, but "it cleared up and all of a sudden everyone was starting to do 60, 70, 80 [km/h]," the woman said.

Although driving herself, she said she felt compelled to take photos to serve as a safety warning to other motorists and perhaps to protect the child.

"I just couldn't believe it ... so yes I grabbed my phone a took a photo but I couldn't believe what I was seeing," she said.

The woman said the child appeared to be "having a laugh" while driving.

Police statistics showed distractions were responsible for 24 per cent of fatal crashes in the Auckland region in 2017.

"When you're driving, your focus should be on the road and getting everybody in your car to the destination safely," Meale said.

"Put the phone away and keep your eyes on the road, this includes when you've stopped at traffic lights or when traffic is slow."
 

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