I fully support the decision to ban talking or texting on a cell phone while driving. Driving is the single most dangerous activity most of us will ever do (with the exception perhaps of fighter pilots, not that there are any in New Zealand anymore.) A terrifying number of our drivers seem to be of the linked delusions that:
a) they are a better than average driver
b) driving only requires part of their attention at any given time
c) they are perfectly capable of multi-tasking, thank you.
In the vast majority of cases, all of these assumptions are wrong. Many people on our roads combine arrogance and incompetence with sometimes lethal results. There are certainly many sources of distractions while driving but using a cell phone is rarely unavoidable. If it really is vital, make a small investment and buy a hands-free gizmo or use the Blue Fang Face Blog-type set-up David P Farrar already has in his limousine.
While the New Zealand research is a little light, international research is increasingly confirming that texting in particular is dangerous.
An American study concluded “the risk [of texting while driving] sharply exceeds previous estimates based on laboratory research – and far surpasses the dangers of other driving distractions. The new study, which entailed outfitting the cabs of long-haul trucks with video cameras over 18 months, found that when the drivers texted, their collision risk was 23 times greater than when not texting. In the moments before a crash or near crash, drivers typically spent nearly five seconds looking at their devices – enough time at typical highway speeds to cover more than the length of a football field.”
One of the common arguments against the ban, made by David P Farrar and others around the blogosphere, is that there is already a law against driving while distracted though it is not really used. That is true as far as it goes but my understanding is that the main reason it is not used is because of the difficulty proving causal effect. For instance, the person may admit they were texting but deny that it contributed to them driving into a tree. The proposed ban removes the burden of proving effect and focuses instead on the easily proved action of using the phone while driving.
I really would like to think that better use of the existing laws and a laudable public education scheme would make a difference but it won’t. Too many drivers ignore what should be common sense every day. A simple direct ban hitting them in the wallet and racking up demerit points is the best way to go. If drivers really need to talk on their phones, buy one of the readily available kits which will let them do so legally. After all, they can already afford a car.