Hand-held cellphone ban in cars proposed

June 11th, 2008 at 10:56 am by David Farrar

The Dominion Post reports that later today the Government will announce a proposed law change to ban hand-held .

My views on this are well known. We should have laws which focus on all distractions to drivers, not pick and choose particular distractions on the basis of media headlines. A cellphone use ban should be accompanied by banning food, drink, smoking, tuning the radio and passengers who talk.

Also there has been research showing that hands free cellphone use is just as distracting as hand held use.

I would be very interested to review any studies from countries which have banned hand held cellphone use, and whether or not this has led to any reduction in crashes due to distractions, and also how many people have been fined for breaking the new law. My suspicion is it affects the crash statistics very little, but increases ticketing and revenue.

There are circumstances where it is perfectly safe to talk on a cellphone while driving, and times when it is not safe. Just as there are times when it is safe to drive at 120 km/hr on an open road and times when it is not safe to go more than 70 km/hr. It is called driving to the conditions.

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30 Responses to “Hand-held cellphone ban in cars proposed”

  1. Redbaiter (13,197 comments) says:

    Yep, whilst shop keepers are gunned down in cold blood, and the cops are too frightened to let paramedics attend the dying, and retailers are in some regions talking of closing down their shops altogether, and in other regions, rape violence and robbery are rife, the team that brought us the anti smacking laws, the Kyoto protocol and little paper waste baskets in politicians offices, are once again focusing on the really important stuff. What a banana republic, what a basket case. What a disgrace for a country.

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  2. Pascal (1,969 comments) says:

    The number of times I’ve had to swerve to avoid people watching their mobile phone, doing 80+ km/h in traffic on the motorway, while they’re busy texting … it’s scary. Swerving between lanes, unable to maintain consistent speeds and just general lack of attention to the task they are meant to be focussing on.

    You’d expect that the majority of the population would have the common sense to know that they are operating a dangerous piece of machinery with potentially lethal consequences. As soon as they begin splitting their concentration between tasks to the detriment of the one they need to do safely you’re asking for trouble. Of course, common sense and your average person does not match very well.

    This is covered under existing legislation though, isn’t it? Driving a motor vehicle in an unsafe manner or something like that? If it is – why bring in more legislation or is this just a government looking for poll ratings and a “busy work” look?

    Banning them won’t help – nor would it cover the other distractions. But if somebody is clearly distracted and driving dangerously, I have no problem with the police taking that hazard off the road. Just as I don’t have a problem with them taking drugged or drunk or boy-racing drivers off the road.

    Edit: And while I’m here – RedBaiter just reminded me. What the fuck has happened to making judgement calls? Something has turned the police away from being able to think, reason and apply themselves where they can make a difference to following strict, sometimes anal rules. I’d rather have a cop pass somebody safely driving 120km/h down a barren, empty stretch of road over and apply themselves where there is a real danger. Wherever that might be.

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  3. PaulL (5,981 comments) says:

    Shit, this hurts. Agreeing with you RedBaiter, this surely cannot be the most pressing issue facing NZ in the police portfolio, let alone the most pressing issue across all portfolios.

    What it is is “bash the yuppie” time ahead of the election – those rich bastards not only are stealing NZ’s money by exploiting the poor, they are also killing your mother by driving over her whilst talking on the cell phone. And any complaint about the law just makes you look like a rich bastard yourself. May be clever politics, but it is hardly good policy.

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  4. ghostwhowalks3 (368 comments) says:

    Ratbaiter Kyoto treaty was signed by Jenny Shipleys government! gee an elderly couple were killed by a young guy txting, but thats no big deal to you. And they arent the only ones
    But back to cell phones.

    You can tell someone driving in front of you is talking on the phone, as they seem to be suddenly unable to keep up with the traffic flow and sometimes exhibit characteristics of a drunk driver who is trying to go slower

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  5. PaulL (5,981 comments) says:

    Taking that hazard off the road. Sounds like they can ram them off the road and into a power pole. I’m all in favour of that!!

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  6. Murray (8,847 comments) says:

    Look is no one going to mention the elephant in the room here?

    Mothers-in-law!

    They should have been banned from cars when cars were invented. I have no issue with my own but my wifes mother-in-law, jeeze!

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  7. Redbaiter (13,197 comments) says:

    You’re on to it Murray, and while we’re about it, lets hit car radios, cd players, ipods, eating, billboards, talking and anything else that might for one instant cause a distraction to driving.

    Rape, robbery, murder?? Oh well, aaaahh that’s next…

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  8. Redbaiter (13,197 comments) says:

    “Ratbaiter Kyoto treaty was signed by Jenny Shipleys government!”

    I know that. do you have a point?? Actually, this would be a good opportunity to get something moving in this country. maybe there should be a division in the house, and everybody who thinks this is an important issue right now, and that administrative, economic and human resources should be diverted to deal with it, should go and sit on one side, and all of those who want to restore some bloody law and order and pride in this country again should go and sit on the other.

    …and they should damn well stay there, where they’re sitting, and form two parties along the lines of that division. Then the electors will know good and proper where to put their vote. With the pseudo liberal socialist fuckwits who are running around painting the store fronts on this Potemkin village they have built, or with those who want to tear the whole ruinous edifice down and restore NZ to what is once was. A country citizens could have some pride in.

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  9. Mr Dennis (348 comments) says:

    Yes, a ban on cellphones is pointless. I was living in Ireland for the last couple of years, where cellphones are banned in cars. Most people use hands free kits. The cellphone companies have made a killing. Seemed pointless to me, people were still just as distracted while driving, and a good number flouted the law anyway.

    I have been distracted in the car before and had close shaves – once while adjusting the radio (clipped a roadside marker), once while getting a large spider off my ear (ended up actually on the roadside that time. Not that I’m scared of spiders mind you, but having something large suddenly crawling on your ear while driving is a bit disconcerting!). I have never had such an incident while using a cellphone, although that would be an equal distraction.

    I agree with DPF, but would add old jackets that could potentially contain large spiders to the list of illegal distractions if a law is passed! Or, better, just forget it and focus on more important things.

    Maybe if someone found whatever act it is that allows police to prosecute for dangerous driving and added a pointless amendment such as “dangerous driving includes driving in a hazardous manner due to distraction, including but not limited to operating electronic equipment” it would keep everyone on both sides of the argument happy. I say pointless as the Police already could use discretion and prosecute in this area (just like the amendment by National to the s59 repeal outlining that Police have discretion there – this was also pointless as Police already have discretion whatever they do, but made a few people feel a bit more warm and fuzzy about the law thus gaining National’s vote). But it might placate those calling for a ban on cellphone use.

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  10. dave strings (608 comments) says:

    Using anything that requires the hands while driving, other than manipulation of the controls of the vehicle, can already be dealt with under the law as ‘dangerous driving’, if specific cell-phone use needs a semblance of documented approval I suppose they could be added, to the list of things not to do while driving, in the Road Code.

    I don’t think DPF that you can excuse the use of cell-phones in a car AT ANY TIME if they are being used to read and send TXTs. As I remember it, this was the cause of the accident that upset s many people, and it’s certainly something that annoys the hell out of me when I’m driving behind a perpetrator.

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  11. Pascal (1,969 comments) says:

    dave strings: I don’t think DPF that you can excuse the use of cell-phones in a car AT ANY TIME if they are being used to read and send TXTs.

    Exactly, unless the vehicle is stationary. Parked at the lights and watching people drive past, eyes on the mobile phone as they write a text. Who crosses an intersection with their eyes on a phone, not on the road? Idiots. But there is existing legislation to cover dangerous distractions, because there are situations where using a mobile phone might not be dangerous to anybody but yourself.

    They do not need more.

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  12. BlairM (2,339 comments) says:

    Geez, this is insane. Why don’t we just have laws against dangerous driving? Oh, wait, you mean… we already do?! Wow! Maybe we should just throw the book at dangerous drivers instead of ticketing good drivers who get the odd phone call in the car? Just a thought…

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  13. goodgod (1,348 comments) says:

    Hands free communications can’t be all that dangerous and distracting, since airline pilots seem to be able to radio flight control without crashing into the terminal.

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  14. RRM (9,915 comments) says:

    DPF: “There are circumstances where it is perfectly safe to talk on a cellphone while driving, and times when it is not safe. Just as there are times when it is safe to drive at 120 km/hr on an open road and times when it is not safe to go more than 70 km/hr. It is called driving to the conditions.”

    Yes – and a ban gives the Police the opportunity to spot individual offenders who they believe ARE posing a risk, and pull them over. A couple of times, parked-up Police cars have just flashed their headlights at me because I’ve (inadvertently) been doing 112-ish. I guess it must have been clear even to *the evil pigs* that I wasn’t really creating much of a hazard to anyone at that moment. They aren’t all the cynical, revenue-collecting bastards that everyone here clearly sees them as!

    I, for one, would rather have roads with more rules than fewer rules. The general unwashed f*cktards around you on the road have no well-informed general principles of safety to guide them. They NEED a list of discrete things that are not allowed!

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  15. Murray (8,847 comments) says:

    And there Blair has stumbled accross the inconvienient truth. If you have an accident and are found to have been distracted – by a phone or anything else – you can be charged with careless driving.

    The laws are already there. The laws are meaningless if they are not enforced.

    However if you start picking on banning specific items you can make them instant fine actiivities and the police can get on with doing their primary job. Raising money for Labour to buy another election/

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  16. RRM (9,915 comments) says:

    goodgod: Airline pilots have a wider lane to drive in. They are also very, VERY much more skilled and highly trained than you or I!

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  17. 2_dead_dogs (32 comments) says:

    Thanks for that RPM. GG: How about an exemption for airline pilots using handheld cellphones in the car?

    Seriously though, air traffic communication is extremely simple and repeditive. You can do it with your eyes shut (bad analogy I know but you get my drift).

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  18. BlairM (2,339 comments) says:

    Yeah! Let’s give the police more powers! They’ve proven themselves so responsible with the ones they already have! *sigh*

    I’m afraid not all of us are white, middle-aged, or have good cleavage, which seems to be a prerequisite for “being let off with a warning” these days.

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  19. Rex Widerstrom (5,354 comments) says:

    RRM postulates:

    A couple of times, parked-up Police cars have just flashed their headlights at me because I’ve (inadvertently) been doing 112-ish. I guess it must have been clear even to *the evil pigs* that I wasn’t really creating much of a hazard to anyone at that moment. They aren’t all the cynical, revenue-collecting bastards that everyone here clearly sees them as!

    On a donut break, perhaps? :-D I too have encountered the occasional reasonable Police officer. Like the one who pulled me over for doing about 110, let me off that, breathalysed me and told me I was under the limit but that as I clearly had a long drive ahead of me (I was just leaving a country town, having been to a dinner) I should be aware that breath alcohol readings actuallt rise for a while after you stop drinking. I didn’t know that, so made sure I paid extra attention to my driving. Till then I had no idea of that nasty trap, and will in future allow a longer time to elapse between the last glass of red and my drive home.

    So – satisfied taxpayer who’s been given some advice which will contribute to future road safety and will check his driving on that particular occasion.

    Then there were the two bastards who pulled me over in the city when I was lost and getting directions on my cellphone. Broad daylight, not a drop of alcohol had passed my lips. They ticketed me for using the phone (it’s already illegal in Australia) and wrote one for changing lanes when I shouldn’t have (again, I explained I was lost and unfamiliar with the road, being a Kiwi). They smirked and said “welcome to Perth” as they handed me $400 in fines.

    In other words, every new law just provides an opportunity for “pigs” who are “evil” to persecute motorists if they feel like it. More law or less isn’t really the issue – it’s consistency across the actions of Police that’s needed.

    Meanwhile BlairM suggests:

    I’m afraid not all of us are white, middle-aged, or have good cleavage, which seems to be a prerequisite for “being let off with a warning” these days.

    Well I have two out of three (I don’t think man boobs count) and it’s never done me much good :-)

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  20. Murray (8,847 comments) says:

    Hands up if eeeewwww.

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  21. Sean (301 comments) says:

    Section 8 Land Transport Act 1998 – “A person may not drive a vehicle, or cause a vehicle to be driven, carelessly or without reasonable consideration for other persons”.

    No need for additional legislation. All it needs is for the bacon boys to actually enforce the existing law.

    Should apply to cellphone users, people telling children off, changing CDs, putting on makeup, doing one’s hair, eating or drinking and any other in vehicle behaviour where that results in a vehicle being driven carelessly or without reasonable consideration.

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  22. MacDoctor (63 comments) says:

    DPF: Also there has been research showing that hands free cellphone use is just as distracting as hand held use.
    This research also showed that having a conversation with a passenger is no nearly as distracting as a hands-free phone conversation. Apparently this is because the passenger modifies the flow of conversation to suit the traffic conditions.

    Of course, while we are banning distractions from the car, we should not forget the ultimate one – small children! :-)

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  23. gd (2,286 comments) says:

    the fix for this simple

    Every time you see a driver using a hand held phone you get infront of them and then perform the standard Police procedure of a moving block to bring them to a stop You then open their door and grab their cell phone and grind it under the heel of your shoe.

    Problem solved.

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  24. Rex Widerstrom (5,354 comments) says:

    gd – I’d be prepared to support this legislation provided you extend it to people who use them in restaurants and on public transport. I’d rather they discuss their break up, their haemarroids or their sex life in their car than standing or sitting next to me. Actually, scrub that… I want an amendment that lets me grind their tongue under the heel of my shoe.

    Oh and while we’re at it, the same penalty for the people who uses hands free when walking down the street, so I have no idea whether I’m being approached by the village idiot in the middle of a chat with his imaginary leprechaun before stabbing me in the head, or a wanker who’s planning where to go for drinks after work.

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  25. side show bob (3,660 comments) says:

    Whats really hard is talking on a cell phone, driving and opening a beer bottle at the same time, it should be banned, you waste to much beer.

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  26. simo (150 comments) says:

    Just more revenue for the cops to chase, and more nanny state bossing everyone around, its a couple of percent in the polls for Liarbour going south!!!!

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  27. freedom101 (504 comments) says:

    Reminds me of the time I was ticketed for no seat belt on Lambton Quay at 8.30am, stuck in heavy traffic, doing maybe 3kph. $150 to fund Liabor’s spending plans. Easy money. Nice that the police have time to enforce that particular law, at that time at that place. I feel so safe!

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  28. Craig Ranapia (1,915 comments) says:

    OK, how about our parliamentarians showing a little bottle and making the argument that:

    1) Owning and driving a car is not a fundamental and inalienable human right.
    2) No matter what the cause, if you’re so easily ‘distracted’ that you’re responsible for causing injury or serious property damage you’ve no business being behind the wheel. Ever. No exceptions. No ‘discretion’. Life means life. A couple of thousand people finding they don’t much like having to organise their lives around public transport schedules, and the convenience and generosity of others, should do the trick.

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