Cellphones in Cars

December 10th, 2006 at 3:34 pm by David Farrar

Just because you are somewhat moronic to text message while driving a car, doesn’t mean that all cellphone use in cars is dangerous.

There is a difference between taking a 30 second phone call while at traffic lights, or moving slowly through town and trying to text message and drive at the same time. Whether or not use of a cellphone is risky depends on numerous factors – your speed, the road conditions, the length of the call, whether you are calling or receiving, whether you have hands free, whether you have a passenger.

A total ban on cellphone use is the last option, not the first option. Many many NZers gain great benefits from being able to communicate whil in a vehcile. For some businesses it is essential.

Here are some steps the Govt could take, before advocating a ban (which may not even change behaviour and just lead to lots of fines):

1) Advertising Campaign targetted specifcally at consequences of having phones distract you while driving

2) General blitz on all driving activity where driver appears to be distracted

3) Handing out warning pamphlets to drivers seen driving and on the cellphone about the risk of accidents due to distraction

4) Prosecuting more people for accidents where avoidable distractions were a factor

5) Increasing the penalties and threshold for driving and/or having an accident when distracted

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34 Responses to “Cellphones in Cars”

  1. Neville () says:

    What next? Don’t knit and drive?

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  2. neville () says:

    What will they legislate next? No knitting and Driving?

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  3. Rex Widerstrom () says:

    Absolutely right, DPF. The vast bulk of traffic offences in fact depend on the interaction of a variety of factors to actually render them dangerous (and don’t even get me started on invasions of civil liberties like seat belt and cycle helmet laws when applied to rational adults).

    The Police always have the option to use their discretion not to prosecute a minor traffic offence. In all my years of driving and being driven by other, I can recall it being exercised in the driver’s favour once – ironically, a warning for driving at high speed. Whereas I can recall my assiduously law-abiding father copping a ticket because one of the tail lights on his trailer was out.

    Now the government wants to remove that discretion entirely in the case of mobile phones. “If I were a benign dictator…” says the Minister.

    I was a little confused for a moment till I realised the qualifier applied to “benign”.

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  4. CH () says:

    In Toronto, drivers are encouraged to pay attention to their driving via overhead digital message boards (as we have in Auckland). Messages such as “Save driving first, phone call second” have been adopted rather than a knee-jerk law change.

    It’s not surprising the minister wants a total ban rather than considering less punitive options. In fact I’m perplexed NZ didn’t ban cellphone use before they even reached the market.

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  5. Gerrit () says:

    Surely the current law regarding dangerous driving would cover the use of cell phones in cars when in a dangerous situation. ie not at traffic lights but on the motorway, etc or when in a congested build up area.

    Like most laws we dont need any more, just bloody well enforce the ones we have!

    But then do we have enough police to enforce this law plus all the others?

    Do insurance companies cover damage if the cause of an accidents was shown to be you using a cell phone?

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  6. Thrash Cardiom () says:

    Duynhoven does say that countries which have enacted cellphone bans still have problems and that the issue is really one of changing behaviour. He also said that a public education campaign was required.

    Weird. He admits the issue is behavioural and that an education campaign is required but if he had his way he would change the law to ban cellphone use whilst driving anyway.

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  7. mara () says:

    Would being bitten by a tarantula while driving/crashing be considered an avoidable distraction? as in ” your Honour,as I was sedately driving my elderly mother to her podiatrist appointment,a giant tarantula lunged onto my neck and,in panic, I inadvertently applied too much force to the accelerator thereby causing the alleged ensuing bedlam and carnage.”?

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  8. Bruce Hoult () says:

    Actually I’d have to disagree with you about txting while driving being “moronic”.

    It takes far less attention than holding a conversation, can mostly be done with only an ocassional glance — no more often than, say, the frequency with which you check your mirrors, something that we are (quite rightly) encouraged to take our attention from what is in front of us to do.

    It is also a task that can be interrupted by higher priority driving tasks as often and for as long as necessary, without the recipient being in the least bit aware of the interruption. Quite unlike a phone call, where drivers are loathe to interrupt their conversation while negiotiating traffic situations that really should have their full attention.

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  9. Fred () says:

    The worst thing you can do with statist control freak fuckwits like Harry is pay them any attention…
    it only encourages the bad behaviour.

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  10. Simon () says:

    “………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….”

    shhh i’m ignoring Fred ‘cos he’s a fuckwit

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  11. K1 () says:

    Ride a motorbike for a week. You’ll be in favour of banning a whole bunch of things by Friday, cellphones and texting being just the start. You might have a go at smoking, too, or my personal favorite, applying one’s makeup as one overtakes on the left in one’s SUV.

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  12. Geoffm () says:

    So, will this ban apply to radios – such as used by the Police?
    Didn’t think so.
    Geoff

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  13. aladin () says:

    if banning texting while driving will make the roads safer, then ban it I say!!!
    Especially people like DPF who think it’s ok to take your eyes off the road to do this (what happens when a cow runs onto the road or you get a puncture??) to actually write and read messages (totally different to glancing in the rear vision mirror for a second or yelling at your kids). Ever heard about defensive driving?

    aladin

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  14. jcuknz () says:

    Personally I would ban radios as well.

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  15. Fred () says:

    With any luck fuckwit Harry will spend most of his time playing on the road.
    Fingers crossed.

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  16. David Farrar () says:

    aladin invents things which he thinks I have advocated. Not a smart thing to do here.

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  17. Fred () says:

    Got a mail from one who knows that indicates Hulun is not impressed with the fuckwit Harry’s stuff up, apparently his position is going to be eventually recast as hands free in moving vehicles (like Aust.)

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  18. Andrew () says:

    I’ve never been able to understand the logic that suggests that just because there are other things that might make us less safe on the roads (make-up, smoking, nose picking yada yada) that we should not improve safety by banning clutching cellphones while piloting our automotive weapons. Puerile logic.

    Is anyone here going to claim that their attention on the task of driving has never been reduced be tinkering with a cellphone? I know that I’m a significantly less safe driver with a drive-talking combo, let alone a drive-texting one. What that really means is that you are less safe when i’m using a cellphone while cocooned in 2.7 tonnes of German steel and countless airbags.

    Anyone here ever held a dying cyclist mate in their arms as a result of a moronic driver focusing on their T9 input rather than the road? I young friend of mine continues to be traumatised by that event. He won’t touch a cellphone while driving. Neither will I now.

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  19. aladin () says:

    DPF, you’ve blogged about this before and many bloggers didn’t support your assertions.

    E.g. “in order to text you have one hand off the wheel and, in the case of texting, your eyes off the road.”

    Also: “Effectively, this behaviour is already banned. It’s called not driving with due care and attention. But for the significant minority of completely idiotic drivers that plague our roads, this needs to be explained over and over and over again.”

    aladin

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  20. David Farrar () says:

    Aladin – you claim I think it is ok to take your eyes off the road in order to text. This is a lie. In fact I refer to such behaviour as moronic.

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  21. Bruce Hoult () says:

    Ride a motorbike for a week. You’ll be in favour of banning a whole bunch of things by Friday, cellphones and texting being just the start.

    Ha! You think?

    I’m asuming this is directed at me, as one who said that txting while driving is not “moronic”.

    Funnily enough, it’s much easier to txt while riding a motorcycle than to talk on the thing while riding a motorcycle.

    Even more funnily enough, by the time I get back from Christmas my current motorcycle will have 100,000 km on the clock, all of them put there by me. And I did 130,000 km on the one before that, with not a scratch imparted on anyone. As was also the case with the one before that, and the one before *that*, and …

    Overall I think my total motorcycling experience must be pushing the 400,000 km mark.

    And, for the record, no I’m not in favour of using the awesome force of the law to ban any of the things you mention.

    What I *am* in favour of is doing something about people who have demonstrated actual incompetence in a motor vehicle by crashing it.

    I am not in favour of harassing people who are presumed by some busybody to be potentially or statistically more likely to crash by virtue of talking, drinking, txting, smoking, or driving faster than a number arrived at by a political (not scientific) process and then painted on a sign by the side of the road.

    I *am* in favour of introducing handling skills training and testing into driver licensing, including emergency and loss-of-control situations.

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  22. Fletch () says:

    There was an episode of Mythbusters a couple of weeks ago about how driving whilst talking on a cellphone is as bad as driving drunk. That was the myth anyway, so they set out to prove/disprove it. They gave test subjects alcohol and tested them in a simulator, compared with other subjects talking on a cellphone.

    The test subjects were just below the legal limit with a blood alcohol level around 0.07 percent. What they found was that the cell phone without alcohol led to slightly lower scores on the driving course than driving drunk.

    So, in other words (for their test at least) driving with a cellphone was slightly worse than with alcohol.

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  23. Craig Ranapia () says:

    Well, nice to see the O’Herald burying the lead this morning (par 3-5

    Police suspect that the 16-year-old was sending a text message at the time of the crash.

    But that allegation was rejected yesterday by her father, Eric, who said that those first on the scene had told him her mobile phone was in her handbag.

    Miss Lloyd’s death on Thursday is being seen as possibly the third this year in which text messaging has been implicated. [Emphasis added]

    Source: http://subs.nzherald.co.nz/section/story.cfm?c_id=1&ObjectID=10414798

    Isn’t it funny how those all-important qualifiers, and inconvenient contradictions, go out the window when the media and politicians want to crank up the banned waggon?

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  24. Spitting Llama () says:

    If you are using a cell phone in a vehicle your concentration is not on the road. Sorry, but most Kiwis drive like total idiots. You know – the poor idiotic passive agressive drivers that speed up in passing lanes, fail to realise that you use turning signals to indicate a turn BEFORE making the manuever, not during / afterwards. And so on. There seems to be a very cocky, can-do attitude which is probably detrimental to our overall road safety.

    Christ, if I think of the woman steering with her knees while she was applying make-up with a baby strapped into the backseat.

    I’m from the school of thought that says when driving that is what you should be doing – not yakking on a phone, trying to send a text message or whatever. Because at some stage you’ll glance down to see who wrote what and will run over somebody.

    And as to it being okay at slow speed in a city? Maybe if you’re stuck in a traffic jam – but have you seen the Lemming/Possum mentality of your average NZ pedestrian?

    They don’t seem to have realised that cars are big, heavy and generally outweigh them by a few hundred kilos when they do their dash for the other side of the road.

    On this one, I’d be supportive of fines for doing anything that could potentially distract a driver from their primary task – operating a tonne of powered steel from one location to another.

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  25. Spam () says:

    I would have no problem with a ban on cellphones whilst driving.

    Our company has already done that for people driving company cars (and removed the ‘hands-free’ kits).

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  26. Craig Ranapia () says:

    Spitting Llama wrote:
    If you are using a cell phone in a vehicle your concentration is not on the road.

    Just as your concentration isn’t on the road if you’re distracted by children in the backseat, fiddling with the radio or air conditioning, or you’re one of those people who are easily distracted by Daniel Carter, or Elle McPherson if you’re that way inclined, in their underpants. None of which the Government is interested in banning.

    While I take your point, SL, I think more would be achieved if we were actually using the legislation we already have – and got over the silly idea that driving is a fundamental human right. AFAIC, if your behaviour is proved – not ‘suspected’ – to be responsible for the death or serious injury of others, then you lose your licence for good. And if you’re found driving while banned, then there should be a sharply escalating scale of jail time.

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  27. Bestever () says:

    I saw a young male (18?) driving a truck (8 ton?) with a Cat D4 (?) on the back, in peak hour central city traffic txting on 2 cellphones, one in each hand, genius.

    I saw a young male (16?) driving along SH16 while taking a photo of the sunset with his cellphone, brilliant.

    I saw a young female (17?) driving in peak hour stop start motorway traffic txting and doing her hair.

    Sometimes you gotta legislate or Darwin’s going to kick in.

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  28. Bruce Hoult () says:

    It’s gotta be asked.

    What have you got against Darwin?

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  29. Bestever () says:

    Nothing, it’s a saying.

    “Those crazy kids, if they keep driving like that, Darwin is going to kick-in.”

    You know, they are going to terminate their genes through anti-survival behaviour.

    There’s probably a Larsen for it. I get the feeling this is the wrong blog.

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  30. Bruce Hoult () says:

    Yes, I understand the saying. The question is, why do you want to prevent the exercise of evolution in action?

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  31. K1 () says:

    The question is, why do you want to prevent the exercise of evolution in action?

    Because, Bruce, there frequently are other people involved in these evolutionary correction events, said people statistically unlikely to conveniently be Darwin award nominees themselves. In case that wasn’t too obvious.

    And, from your earlier post, if you text while riding, you’re a complete moron. A lucky moron, maybe, but one nonetheless. Besides, all you’d have to do in order to talk on the phone would be to ride without a helmet, after all you don’t need it because you never crash.

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