Busted: 48 in 4 hours

In just four hours, Queenstown police issued fines totalling $4700 to drivers using cellphones and to people in vehicles not wearing seat belts.

The total figure comprised 48 infringement notices, including 24 for failing to wear seat belts and 14 for using cellphones while driving.

Senior Sergeant John Fookes, of Queenstown, said the actual number of offenders could be double the number caught in last week's operation. This was because some might have gone undetected while police were dealing with other offenders.

Snr Sgt Fookes said writing tickets was a means to an end rather than the reason for undertaking the operation.

Failure to wear seat belts is found to increase the severity of injury in the case of a crash, and using cellphones can cause drivers to lose control of their vehicles, subsequently endangering other road users.

Otago Rural acting area commander Inspector Andrew Burns said seat belts and cellphones were a ''major issue for us right across the country''.

Winter brought difficult road conditions and an increase in tourists in some areas, so the operation was well timed, he said. The Queenstown operation in which the 48 fines were issued was conducted by the highway patrol last week, but both Snr Sgt Fookes and Insp Burns said the targeting would be ongoing.

More exercises are planned within the Wakatipu and Insp Burns said the operation was part of a Queenstown Lakes and Central Otago exercise.

''We are wanting people to be aware that we are going to be doing enforcement in the next few weeks [but] it's going to be ongoing,'' Insp Burns said.

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