It will be illegal for drivers to talk or send text messages on handheld mobile phones while driving from November 1, Transport Minister Steven Joyce announced today.
Drivers using handheld mobiles would be liable for an $80 fine and 20 demerit points.
The ban comes in changes to the Land Transport (Road User) Amendment Rule.
"There are a lot of other distractions while driving but handheld mobile phone use has grown to become a significant problem," Mr Joyce said.
"The reality is we need to send a strong signal to all road users that it's not on.
"Texting and driving, in particular, is a total no brainer."
According to statistics supplied by Mr Joyce, there were 25 fatal crashes and 482 injury crashes between 2003 and 2008 where the use of a cellphone or another mobile device was a factor.
The ban will not cover hands-free devices or two-way radio, and there will be an exemption for 111 calls made in emergency situations.
Mr Joyce said the excemption for hands-free devices was necessary because many business and trades people depended on them for work.
Also included in the rule change is a requirement for motorcyclists and moped riders to use headlights during daylight hours.
Dog & Lemon Guide editor Clive Matthew Wilson said instead of fining drivers police should have the power to temporarily seize cellphones.
He said banning cellphone might not work because many drivers would rather get a fine than miss a call. But the threat of having their cellphone confiscated would cause drivers to change their behavior.
"Cellphone use by drivers is banned in many countries, yet drivers continue to use their cellphones regardless. Clearly, we need to move beyond simply giving drivers tickets to taking their cellphones away."
- The Dominion Post
- © Fairfax NZ News