Opinions divided over crackdown on cellphones

AL WILLIAMS
Last updated 05:00 29/11/2012
driving on phone
RISKY?: Opinion is divided over police efforts to crack down on drivers using cellphones.

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Motorists need to apply common sense and remain fully focused on the road at all times, Associate Transport Minister Simon Bridges says.

His comments follow feedback by Timaru Herald readers about the clampdown by police on drivers using cellphones.

The Herald ran an online poll yesterday asking readers if they text or use their cellphones while driving. More than a third of respondents indicated they did.

Drivers are being stopped this week in a nationwide push to remind motorists of the law banning cellphone use while driving.

The legislation was introduced three years ago and drivers breaking the law face an $80 fine and 20 demerit points.

Readers were forthcoming with their comments on the Timaru Herald Facebook page yesterday.

Janie Marie asked: "But we can use an iPod to listen to music, we can have passengers and children, eat, drink, pick up a dropped lighter, smokes or a child's toy.

"Seriously all the above is just as distracting as a phone and I'd like to see them give me a ticket, as I'd fight it."

Karen Halliday wasn't surprised that Kiwis were getting caught using cellphones in cars. "In Australia the car is a no-phone zone, hands-free only, and P platers can not use removable music players or carry passengers in their car after 7pm. Smoking is not allowed with children in the car and having a takeaway mix bottle or can open in the car while driving is also on the list, all are fineable offences here."

Mr Bridges said it was about applying common sense in all situations. "If it's going to distract you from the primary task of driving you shouldn't be doing it while driving.

"If a person was undertaking an action that caused them to leave their traffic lane, or cause a crash (eating, changing CDs or applying makeup), they could be charged with careless and inconsiderate use of a vehicle.

"A person convicted of an offence of operating a vehicle without reasonable consideration for other persons using the road can be fined up to $3000 and could also be disqualified from holding or obtaining a driver licence for such period as the court thinks fit."

Mr Bridges said there were a lot of other distractions while driving but handheld mobile phone use had grown to be a significant problem by the time the road rules were changed in 2009.

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- The Timaru Herald

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