Tom misses the point

September 30th, 2009 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

misses the point, in my opinion, with his column that the Govt should ban using mobiles for satnav. He wrote:

Last week, The Dominion Post asked the Transport Ministry whether it would illegal from November to use mobile phones as satellite navigation aids in cars.

The initial response from spokesman John Summers was confusing and ambiguous. But pressed for clarification, Mr Summers consulted colleagues and came back with a clear answer:

“You asked whether a driver can look at a navigation system on a mobile phone even it is securely mounted. The answer is to this is no, not while driving.

“Under the Road User Amendment Rule 2009, you can use a mobile phone held in a cradle (including those that double as a GPS device) while driving but only to make, receive or terminate a phone call.  You cannot use them in any other way such as reading a GPS map, reading email, or consulting an electronic diary.”

I would contend that was a sensible and considered position, and that Transport Minister ’s decision yesterday to cave in from pressure from gadget-fans and amend the rule was a mistake.

I contend it was the exact opposite, and the Minister inserting some common sense into the rule making.

Mr Joyce said it was not the intent of the rule to make it illegal for motorists to use the satellite navigation or music functions of their cellphones, “provided these are mounted in the vehicle and are manipulated infrequently”.

He met with officials and instructed them to “amend the rule accordingly”.

Mr Joyce appears to have  thereby explicitly sanctioned people taking their eyes off the road and looking at instructions on their mobile phone, and tinkering with it, while their vehicle is in motion.

That is arguably more dangerous than people using unmounted cellphones to answer calls, the problem the rule change was originally designed to tackle.

Well I’m no fan of the cellphone ban anyway, but there is a big difference between using a device to chat to someone not in the car, and using a device to tell you where to drive.

If Tom thinks there should be no tinkering in cars, will he support banning all car radios?

How long does Mr Joyce believe it would be safe for people to take their eyes off the road? Say it takes 2 seconds to absorb the visual information from a smartphone doubling as a SatNav. In that time a car travelling at 50km will travel 27 metres.

That could be the two seconds during which a child steps out in front of the vehicle.

But here is where Tom misses the point.  The Government has never intended to ban the use of GPS devices in cars. If we did so, we would be the laughing stock of the world as the most common consumer use of GPS is for car navigation. And imagine the impact on tourism as tourists are told they can not use GPS to find their way around – but instead have to use maps.

Incidentally far more dangerous for a driver to be looking at maps while driving, than a GPS device.

You see the stupidity of the draft rule is that using your cellphone for GPS navigation would have been illegal, but using a dedicated GPS navigation device would not be illegal. Now it is, and was, daft to differentiate. An iPhone, for example, has just as large a display screen as some dedicated GPS devices.

This makes as much sense as having a rule saying you can’t use your cellphone to take photos, but you can use a normal camera. Laws and rules should not be based on the technology, but on what it is used for.

15 Responses to “Tom misses the point”

  1. getstaffed (8,229 comments) says:

    Yes, this story is TomTom without engaging his BrainBrain

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  2. Rodney (12 comments) says:

    Ad hoc governance by business groups who take the transport minister toi lunch, and a prime minister who tweets rather than governs..


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  3. petal (707 comments) says:

    Can I please repeat that this is squarely in the domain of shower head flow control? The nation voted overwhelmingly against this sort of politics. Can someone PLEASE yank a chain and get the wayward ministers onto important things?

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  4. Paul Gardner (27 comments) says:

    I was watching the lovely Petra Bagust on “What’s Really in Our Food” last and noticed that she spoke to the camera (which was in the passengers seat) as she drove. This involved turning occasionally to camera. Does that mean we need a specific clause to ban that too?

    Anything too specific is always going to miss dangerous stuff but pick up non-dangerous things. I go along with the fact that actually the current law should be adequate.

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  5. scanner (343 comments) says:

    Her we go again, back down the path to “Nanny State”.
    What started out as a simple solution to a simple problem is now descending to another peice of overcomplicated, ridiculous legislation.

    Why not some thing simple like ” It is an offense to text, or to use a mobile phone to carry out a conversation without a hands-free device from the drivers seat of a vehicle whilst in motion.”

    Is this too simple ? , or do we start banning people from –
    Listening to music
    Changing tapes/CD’s
    Looking at road signs
    Picking ones noes
    and on and on and on

    Time for a reality check and the application of the KISS principle.

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  6. Fletch (9,012 comments) says:

    Next thing we’ll have an emergency kit in the car in case someone feels like they’re going to sneeze (which causes one to takes ones eyes of the road). A special kind of sneeze kit that comes in a red package and that you stuff up your nose to stop the sneezing.

    Every car must have one…

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  7. Alan Wilkinson (2,435 comments) says:

    Teach drivers to manage risks which is what driving is all about. Stop pretending risk can be legislated out of our lives and the idiotic political posturing that goes with that.

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  8. Elijah Lineberry (306 comments) says:

    The actual ‘point’ which is being missed is that the State should not be banning anything, let alone cellular telephone use whilst driving.

    This is just Nanny State engaging in busybodyism; pure good old fashioned Communism.

    If they really cared about road safety (and they don’t – they simply want to be busybodies) the Government would ban Women and Chinamen from driving as having people with no logic or reasoning abilities driving turbo charged deadly weapons makes our roads highly dangerous.

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  9. Pete George (24,828 comments) says:

    The most at risk drivers are those in their first two years of driving. If they were banned there would be far fewer problems.

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  10. side show bob (3,476 comments) says:

    Pete, are you having a senior moment or something similar. So we ban the first two years of driving, the problem then goes on to the next two years of driving, do we ban those two years to? It would get to the stage where we have to ban driving all together.

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  11. Alan Wilkinson (2,435 comments) says:

    SSB, that might be his point?

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  12. sgthree (14 comments) says:

    Under the current wording, if you have an iphone, you can’t use it to play music through your car stereo. I can plug an ipod, including an iphone, into my car stereo system and control the songs and playlists from the steering wheel controls. From 1 November I won’t be able to do that if it is an iphone that is plugged in, but I will if it is an ipod.

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  13. adc (578 comments) says:

    what size is the average cellphone screen on a cell that can do sat nav?

    Surely far too small to view from a meter away when mounted on a dash.

    So I think looking at a map is safer, because

    a) it’s bigger!
    b) it’s clearer!
    c) it doesn’t suffer from glare
    d) you don’t need to fumble for minute buttons to drive it

    In fact most people stop to look at maps, whereas GPS entices people to keep driving, if not adding a sense of urgency (which is also bad IMHO).

    I do wonder how many crashes have been caused by people messing with their satnav.

    As for the car radio analogy. Well they are designed to be fiddled with while driving, so they have bigger buttons, and knobs etc designed to be easy to use and hit whilst moving.

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  14. Peter (2,094 comments) says:


    It talks to you. There’s no need to look at the screen if you think it dangerous to do so.

    I wonder how many crashes have been caused by people thinking of something else whilst driving? More so than satnav, I’d wager.

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  15. Whaleoil (707 comments) says:

    There is a an old rule that applies in this case, never listen or trust anyone with a double barreled name. Anyone who has two fathers should never be trusted.

    Same goes for people with moustaches.

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