More Kiwis are being fined for mobile phone offences than for drink driving, according to the latest data from NZ Police.

The data shows 32,916 mobile phone offences compared to 27,751 drink driving offences from September 2015 to September 2016.

The offenders paid $2.5m for mobile phone offences in the same time period, compared to $1.7m for drink driving.

But Superintendent Steve Greally, national manager for road policing, said the problem was much bigger than that.

"How many do we catch. We can't be really everywhere. It's a small sample."

In a classic case of 'what you measure is what you get' - offences are much higher when the police target mobile phone offences.

In Sept 2015, 4200 drivers were fined for mobile phone offences. The spike in numbers was result of a police campaign to focus on mobile phone and restraint offences.

Greally said the numbers are only indicative of the actual environment.

"It's largely because people don't see the risk. People who are driving doing 100km/h, we need them to take it seriously.

"If you kill a child while on a mobile phone you'll figure out that text could have waited.

"We are the adults in the room. We are the ones have to modify our behaviour."

Changing behaviour

Changing the behaviour will not be that quick, according to transport researcher Glen Koorey.

"With drink driving, we have gone through a cultural shift over a generation, people used to get into the car after having a beer. Now, people think it about more seriously. That took a decade to change that behaviour.

"It's going to take a while for people to appreciate the consequences."

One of the reasons for rampant distracted driving is the lack of understanding of how attention works on the road.

"A lot of people think they can multi-task, but they can't," Greally said.

Multi-tasking while driving is not practical because a vehicle can still cover a large distance during even a small period of inattention.

Psychology Professor Samuel Charlton, of Waikato University, said automative manufacturers are trying to figure out how long someone can take to perform a task on their phone while driving.

"No one's got a good rule of thumb how long should it take to do something," Charlton said.

"If you are travelling at 100km/h, you will have gone 60m in two seconds. That's a very long way."

The attention deficit also depends on the function performed on the phone while driving.

A phone conversation is very different from texting, according to Charlton.

"With a conversation, we know the driver's reaction times are slowed because it takes time to disengage with the conversations and engage with the traffic and pedestrians.

"If you are texting, it's very different. The risks can be higher, because your eyes are required as much as your attention."

Speeding during holiday tolerance period

The driving offence data also shows speed offences doubled during holiday periods when police lowered their tolerance.

Normally police wait until a driver exceeds the speed limit by 10 km/h before issuing a ticket. But in recent years a crackdown has seen police ticket anyone driving 4 km/h over the limit.

In November 2015, 37,000 drivers were fined for camera-issued speeding offences.

In the following December and January - when holiday tolerance limits applied for some periods - there were 148,000 and 135,000 fines respectively.

This doesn't mean the stricter speed limits are proving ineffectual, according Greally.

"We did the research. We got an [average] 1km/h reduction in speed.

"Unfortunately, in New Zealand we have a pseudo speed limit. It's an own goal."

Even an average 1 km/h decrease in rural speed reduces fatal crashes by about 4 per cent, according to Koorey.

Koorey said a simpler solution would be to just lower the speed limits.

"Maybe simpler solution is to lower the speed limit in some cases. Then we don't have to worry so much about the threshold," Koorey said.

The number of drivers fleeing the police jumped from 2.3k in 2014 to 2.9k in 2015.

For 2016, the number was at 2.4K by September.

Greally said the rise could be due to multiple reasons but there is an issue in Auckland.

“We have some young people who have decided it’s a good idea to bait police and film it.”

“Unbeknown to them the risks are so incredibly high, especially when you have vulnerable road users.”

Koorey said the rise in fleeing drivers could also be due to shift in police policy and public perceptions.

In the Auckland region, the most significant rise happened in Counties/Manukau area with number of fleeing drivers rising from 352 in 2014 to 499 in 2015.

Sick of the carnage

Nineteen people died on our roads during the official Christmas-New Year period, with the youngest victim aged just 2.

The same number of people have also died to date in 2017, down from 23 this time last year.

Greally said the death toll made for grim reading, adding some "people just don't care enough" to change their driving habits.

"It takes one person to make a bad decision and the outcome can be tragic," he said.

Too many people were dying in circumstances which could be avoided, including not wearing seatbelt.

More than 37,000 people were fined for not wearing a seatbelt in the first nine months of last year. In 2015, 50,000 who were caught for the same offence.

"It's beyond me," said Greally.

"Remember people make mistakes but if you make a mistake and you have your belt on, the chance of survival is so much higher."

A seatbelt reduces the risk of death risk by 50 per cent in the front seat and 75 per cent for back-seat passengers.

Reducing the road toll was the responsibility of all motorists, he said.

"Don't think about 'imagine if I am caught', imagine if you aren't and you kill your mate," he said.

"The worst thing for us is not the gore. It's when we have to knock on the family's door and experience the heart break."

Additional reporting by Ophelia Buckleton.

The data behind the visualisation is available here.