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Hand-held phone ban for vehicle drivers considered

Hon Annette King
Minister of Transport

Hon Harry Duynhoven
Minister for Transport Safety


Embargoed until [11.00am] 11 June 2008 Media Statement

Hand-held phone ban for vehicle drivers considered

Transport Safety Minister Harry Duynhoven today announced that the Government will consider amending the Land Transport (Road User) Rule 2004 to ban the use of hand-held mobile phones while driving a vehicle.

Drivers would still be able to use hands-free devices under the proposed ban.

Using Blackberry devices and Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) would also be banned under the proposed amendment.

“Mobile phone technology and the culture around their use has moved on significantly since 2004, when the Government first looked at banning cellphones while driving.

“The number of reported crashes involving the use of mobile phones has more than doubled over the last six years, with research showing that using a mobile phone while driving increases the risk of being involved in a crash by up to four times,” said Mr Duynhoven.

Between 2002 and 2007 there were 411 injury crashes and 26 fatal crashes where the use of mobile phones or other telecommunication devices was identified as a contributing factor.

“In a car, mobile phone distraction is part of a much bigger driver distraction issue. In 2006 driver distraction was identified as a contributing factor in 11 percent of all crashes, with a total social cost of $300 million.

“The social conventions around text messaging in particular, mean that today’s drivers are likely to respond to a message immediately, rather than wait until they have reached their destination, at which time their attention is not focused on the road ahead.

“This is only going to worsen as access to enhanced technology is increased,” Mr Duynhoven said.

Transport Minister Annette King said a ban on hand-held mobile phone use for vehicle drivers will bring New Zealand into line with international road safety standards – at least 45 countries, including most in the European Union, the United Kingdom and Australia have already introduced legislation to ban the use of mobile phones while driving.

“While awareness campaigns would continue to focus on the wider issue of driver distraction, the Government’s decision to consider a ban on cellphone use recognised the unique nature of mobile phone distraction,” Ms King said.

The Rule is scheduled to be released for public consultation in August 2008. If a law change is enacted, an awareness-raising education campaign to inform the public will be undertaken.

--

Question & Answers: proposed regulation of hand-held mobile phones while driving

1. What will the proposed ban extend to?

Hand-held mobile phones and other telecommunications devices such as Blackberry devices and Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) while driving.

Hands-free mobile phones and two-way radio will be exempt from the proposed law change.

It is also proposed that there will be an exception for 111 calls made in genuine emergencies, when it is unsafe or impractical to pull over to make a call.

2. Why is this law change being considered?

Mobile phone distraction is a growing road safety risk.

Already people can talk, text, listen to music, download video clips, navigate to chosen destinations and perform other functions on mobile phones that distract drivers.

Research shows that using a mobile phone while driving increases the risk of being involved in a crash by up to four times.

With the rise in text messaging in particular, crashes are expected to increase as future mobile phone technology becomes more accessible and the capabilities are further enhanced.

The number of reported crashes involving the use of mobile phones has more than doubled over the last six years.

Between 2002 and 2007 there were 411 injury crashes and 26 fatal crashes where the use of a mobile phone or other telecommunications device was identified as a contributing factor.

3. Why a special law change for mobile phones and not other driver distractions?

Mobile phones differ from other driver distractions such as the radio or talking to a passenger, because of the frequency and nature of the interaction required.

Other distractions such as talking to passengers, eating or smoking can be modified during demanding traffic situations.

For example, passengers are aware of the road environment and will generally stop talking during a dangerous driving situation, allowing the driver to concentrate fully. A person on the other end of a mobile phone, however, is not aware of any potential hazards and will often continue to talk, distracting the driver at critical moments.

The use of mobile phones impairs the following key driving performance measures:

• Driver reaction time
• Maintenance of appropriate and predictable speed and lane position
• Hazard detection and response
• Judgement and acceptance of gaps in traffic
• General awareness of other traffic.

4. How many injury crashes a year are related to mobile phone distraction?

Between 2002 and 2007 there have been 411 injury crashes and 26 fatal crashes where the use of mobile phones or other telecommunications devices was identified as a contributing factor.

This had an estimated social cost of $173 million.

See table:

Year / Number of fatal crashes / Number of injury crashes / Total social cost of crashes, $m, 2007
2002 / 2 / 46 / $19.2
2003 / 4 / 46 / $20.6
2004 / 5 / 59 / $30.3
2005 / 7 / 72 / $40.4
2006 / 2 / 93 / $25.6
2007 [Note: these figures are still provisional at this stage] / 6 / 95 / $36.9
TOTAL / 26 / 411 / $173.0


5. What is currently being done to raise awareness about driver distraction?

The Road Safety Trust recently launched an awareness-raising campaign about driver distraction. This campaign focuses on the wide range of everyday distractions that drivers encounter.

Land Transport New Zealand is currently pursuing a number of education initiatives aimed at raising awareness about the dangers of all driver distractions.


These include:

• Expanding information in the Road Code on driver distractions
• Targeting specific audiences with information on distractions, such as older drivers (information in Safe with Age), learner drivers, employers (include information in the Your Safe Driving Policy resource)
• Providing information on specific distractions, such as cellphone use when driving
• Addressing distraction caused by young passengers (information has been incorporated into the revised Roadsense resource for teachers and parents) and reading maps when driving.

If a law change is enacted, an awareness-raising education campaign to inform the public will be undertaken.

6. What are the proposed penalties for using a hand-held mobile phone while driving?

The proposed penalty is a $50 fine and 25 demerit points. This is in line with recent changes to the penalty and demerit points regime for traffic offences.

7. Which laws will this affect?

The Land Transport (Road User) Rule 2004, and the Land Transport (Offences and Penalties) Regulation 1999.

8. When will this law come into effect?

The proposed Rule is scheduled to be released for public consultation in August 2008 and is planned to come into effect on 1 July 2009.

9. Will I get the chance to have a say on this?

Yes. The proposed Rule is scheduled to be released for public consultation in August 2008.

10. Are hands-free mobile phones safe?

There is still a risk in using hands-free mobile phones while driving. This is because regardless of the type of phone used, drivers are still concentrating on the conversation rather than on the task of driving.

People will need to continue to be aware of the risks of driver distraction every time they get in their car.

11. Is this the first time the Government has considered this proposal?

The Government first considered banning the use of hand-held mobile phones while driving in 2004. Since then cellphone technology and the culture around their use has moved on significantly with enhanced availability and technology.

While it was decided not to proceed with a ban in 2004, the Ministry of Transport has continued to monitor the crash risk posed by mobile phone use while driving and observed international developments.

The Government has also considered the wider issue of all in-vehicle distractions. This resulted in awareness measures to inform the public about the risks of driver distraction.

12. What other countries have banned mobile phones while driving?

Australia and a number of European Union countries, including the United Kingdom.

13. How do you know the proposed ban will work?

International research shows there is a marked difference in mobile phone use where a ban has been well enforced and supported with publicity. The number of people using hand-held mobile phones while driving declined and was further reduced one year later following a widely published education and enforcement campaign.

14. I rely on using my phone in my car for my business – how will this affect me?

If people wish to continue to use their mobile phone while driving they can purchase a hands-free mobile phone kit.

Drivers will still have the option of pulling over to make or receive a call or retrieve voicemails when they have stopped driving.

15. How much is a hands-free set?

Hands free sets range from under $30 for the simplest option, which is sometimes provided free when mobile phones are purchased, to up to $200 for a more sophisticated kit.


ENDS

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