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Public Support Cellphone Ban, Minister Says

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Steven Joyce
Steven Joyce

Wellington, Aug 14 NZPA - Transport Minister Steven Joyce says there is strong support for the ban on using hand-held cellphones in cars and most people realise they shouldn't text and drive at the same time.

Under changes to the road user rules, effective from November, drivers who ignore the ban will face an $80 fine and 20 demerit points.

Mr Joyce, who announced the decision yesterday, said today the Government was backing an emerging community attitude to the use of hand-held phones in cars.

"I think most people intuitively realise that if you're sitting there reading your texts, or trying to text someone, or reading emails on the way to work your eyes are very definitely off the road," he said on Radio New Zealand.

"We have a situation where 75 percent to 80 percent of the community support the law we're putting in place."

Political parties and cellphone companies have welcomed the ban.

Even the ACT Party, which has been a strong opponent of government interference in people's lives, is supporting the move.

Drivers will be able to use hands-free devices and two-way radio under the ban. There would also be an exemption for 111 calls.

ACT MP John Boscawen supported the move.

"I don't think it is nanny state," he told NZPA.

Between 2003 and 2008, there were 482 injury crashes and 25 fatal crashes in New Zealand where the use of a mobile phone or other telecommunications device was identified as a contributing factor.

"The ACT Party supports road safety and he is leaving it legal for people to use a phone if they install a hands-free kit."

He said there were other distractions such as eating, talking to other people in the car or changing a radio station but there was evidence that cellphone use was a factor in crashes.

"(If) by prohibiting that you can make the road safer then the ACT Party's got no objection to it."

Mr Joyce said allowing hands-free calls recognised many business and trades people depended on cellphones.

"However, I would still urge hands-free users to pull over to make or respond to calls whenever possible."

Telecom and Vodafone both welcomed the move and the companies have staff policies where drivers were told to pull over to accept calls and only use hands-free devices when that was difficult.

Clive Matthew-Wilson, editor of car magazine the Dog and Lemon Guide, said a law change on its own would not make a big difference.

Research showed young drivers tended to ignore bans, with one study showing a spike in use following a ban.

He suggested instead of fines that police be able to seize phones and return them by post.

"The officer would also note the offender's details, and after two offences the cellphone would be permanently seized."

Temporary loss of their cellphone may be more effective than a fine, he said.

Mr Joyce also announced other changes to the Road User Rule including a requirement for motorcyclists and moped riders to operate headlights during daylight hours.

"The number of motorcycle crashes has increased rapidly in recent years as motorcycle usage has grown in popularity again.

"This requirement will help to ensure that motorcyclists are visible to other road users."

The rule contained 23 small and technical changes to improve road safety, clarify existing laws, reduce compliance costs, assist enforcement, and improve traffic flow.

Mr Joyce said a 10-year road safety strategy review would soon be out for consultation.

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