Herald supports cellphone ban

June 3rd, 2009 at 8:36 am by David Farrar

The Herald editorial supports a cellphone use ban for drivers. I don’t agree of course.

Nonetheless, it is heartening to see Steven Joyce ready to act decisively to ban drivers from using hand-held cellphones. So dangerous is the practice and so widespread is the support for a ban that this issue should have been settled several years ago.

The practice is called dangerous, yet the actual accident rates from cellphone use is less than other distractions.

The appeal for a ban is based, first, on most people’s instinctive understanding that using a cellphone, whether for talking or texting, causes drivers to lose concentration.

Yes it does, but you can mitigate that risk. Talking to passengers can cause a loss of concentration also.

Virtually all comparable jurisdictions have stopped drivers using hand-held cellphones. Long ago, they dismissed the fuzzy notions that have delayed action here. Among those is the argument that cellphones are just one of a number of distractions, such as changing a CD or talking to passengers. But, unlike any other disturbance, cellphone use can be addressed simply. There is no need to treat it as just another distraction that must be tolerated.

Other distractions can be simply addressed. Smoking in cars can easily be banned. Stereo systems can be made illegal. Passengers can be banned. What is the logic to target cellphones only? What would be good to see is some research weighing up the costs and benefits of each type of distraction being banned.

If there is an element of controversy about Mr Joyce’s proposal, it lies in its restriction to hand-held cellphones. Much research has noted that the safety issue is not so much the holding of the phone as the decreased concentration caused by the conversation. If so, hands-free connections are equally dangerous. Nonetheless, it is fair to suggest that cellphones have become an essential instrument, especially for tradespeople. It is probably too late to ban them altogether, and the use of hands-free connections, which do not involve drivers looking down to make calls, probably represents a reasonable compromise.

And here is where I think the Herald’s arguments fall down. After stating all the reasons why cellphones should be banned in cars, they then agree it is not practical as cellphones have becom essential, and instead only ban hand held cellphones – despite acknowledging they are probably just as dangerous.

So the roads will be no safer, but we will feel we have done something. Wooly thinking which I expected better of from both the Government and the Herald.

Either have the courage of your convictions and ban cellphone use entirely, or don’t target them at all, and focus on a wider clampdown on all distractions.

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12 Responses to “Herald supports cellphone ban”

  1. petal (706 comments) says:

    Someone’s salivating: “and soon LAW” http://www.hands-free.co.nz/

    Thanks Government, for making someone rich while I do not get any safer.

    While you’re at it, why not double-microchip dogs to make them TWICE as safe.

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  2. Rakaia George (313 comments) says:

    …and still nobody has actually explained why our “careless use of a motor vehicle” laws don’t cover this already.

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  3. wreck1080 (3,905 comments) says:

    Of course banning cellphone use while driving is a good thing. The number of drivers I have assumed drunk, turned out to have a phone stuck to their ears.

    It is irrelevant to compare the odd twiddling of a stereo , with that of texting, or dialling numbers on a mobile. The stereo is a minor distraction, cellphones are not.

    The major use of cellphones in cars is handheld. So, banning that is a good start.

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  4. Redbaiter (13,197 comments) says:

    Joyce said its a “no brainer”, which seems a strange thing for a thinking person to say, because Mr. Farrar has just made a good argument against the proposition.

    ..and of course when has the stinking New York Times style propaganda sheet the Herald and its sycophantic journalists and editors ever spoken out against more government regulation.

    Key and Joyce and National are just Helen Klark and Kullen and Labour in fresh suits. Interfering regulating tax thieves wasters and self serving elitists with no real idea of what an opposition should do.

    You know I can forgive Labour, for at least they are true to their ideology. They stand for big government, ever increasing taxation and all the rest of that socialist rubbish, and they go after it.

    But there is National, sitting on the opposition benches for nine years and sneering and criticizing Labour. Yet when the voters of NZ signal they want change, and elect National, we just get more of the same.

    National and Stephen Joyce are just a disgrace, and all they are doing is once again, preparing this country for another takeover by the left and an accelerated slide into the abyss of socialism.

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  5. Redbaiter (13,197 comments) says:

    wreck1080- did you even read or think about what Rakaia George has said above?

    WTF is it with you ban freaks???

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  6. kino flo (83 comments) says:

    Will single-crewed ambulances be expected to pull over to use their radio?

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  7. Alan Wilkinson (1,878 comments) says:

    The Herald has never carried a sane or intelligent editorial on road safety in my lifetime so this one is no surprise.

    But of course the new law will be 95% meaningless posturing and 5% counterproductive impact.

    The distraction of putting on a “hands-free” earpiece/mic to take an incoming call legally for yet another example is an order of magnitude worse than pushing one button and putting the phone to your ear.

    This law is for brainless, ignorant fools. It is perfect for them.

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  8. insider (1,028 comments) says:

    A number of safety conscious global companies ban it because they can see the distinct effect on their accident statistics. BP had a ‘Key in, phone off’ policy. IT wasn’t the only one. SOme companies also ban RTs from vehicles.

    It’s about accident prevention. Careless use charges deal with an event after the fact. This measure is designed to reduce the number of events not clean up afterwards, which is the point of any good safety system.

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  9. Redbaiter (13,197 comments) says:

    “Careless use charges deal with an event after the fact.”

    So wth hell is wrong with that?? A person swerving or whatever because of talking on the cell phone has committed careless use. If they haven’t, leave them the hell alone.

    You people have just got it in your damn hopelessly indoctrinated heads that individuals must be harried and hassled at every level, for without some higher authority of wise all seeing government, they cannot look after themselves. You and the rest of your self appointed elitist scum with your obsessive aversion to risk, are creating a nation of one cell amoebas.

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  10. brucehoult (195 comments) says:

    “Careless use charges deal with an event after the fact.”

    Well, yes, and so does the vast majority of the legal system. It is a built-in assumption that fines or imprisonment will act as a deterrent to doing the naughty thing.

    If that is wrong then fines for using a cell phone, if caught (which is unlikely), aren’t going to do any good either.

    But if deterrents do work then isn’t it sufficient to apply them to actual, demonstrated, harm? Such as crashing your car. And not to things that are merely thought to increase some statistical probability.

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  11. voice of reason (490 comments) says:

    There may be a better part solution :
    Ban Hand held Cellphone use where speed limit is above 50kmh. Anyone using motorways to commute will recognise the lunatic with cellphone in hand, indicating to change lanes, frantic looking back to lane check, is a driver on the verge of an accident. Worse still if they have a cigarette in the other hand and are driving a manual transmission car.
    Whil they are at it they should ban a few other accessories … Last week I saw a woman driver on the motorway using Hair-Straighteners – plugged into the cig lighter!

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  12. Redbaiter (13,197 comments) says:

    This is not just about cellphones.

    This is about a government being seen to be different from the predecessor it spent so much time criticising.

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