Group Calls for Driver Cellphone Ban
Injury Prevention Group Calls for Driver Cellphone
Thursday 14 December 2006
The Injury Prevention Network of Aotearoa New Zealand (IPNANZ) believes the Government has missed an opportunity to save lives on our roads by not banning the use of cellphones while driving. A raft of Government road safety policies were announced yesterday, but a ban on the use of cellphones was not among them.
IPNANZ National Manager Valerie Norton says evidence about the link between cellphone use and vehicle crashes is mounting.
“Recent Australian research reports that a person using a mobile phone when driving is four times more likely to have a car crash and end up in hospital. In New Zealand last year at least 10 people were killed and over 90 people were injured in crashes where distraction due to cellphone use was a factor. This is compared to two cellphone-related fatalities in 2000.
“Answering a cellphone, dialling or texting takes your attention away from the road, other vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists. Countries that have banned the use of cellphones while driving include the UK, France, Italy, South Africa and all states of Australia.”
She dismisses the argument that banning the use of cellphones while driving is of limited value because drivers will still be able to engage in other distracting activities.
“Vehicle crashes are caused by a large range of factors and circumstances, and it is true that we cannot protect against all of these. But banning the use of cellphones while driving is a relatively straight-forward thing to do that would make a big difference to our crash statistics. We need to take action where we can to reduce preventable injury and death.
“Using a cellphone often leads to more distractions - writing down a phone number, looking at a diary, or simply taking your mind off the road while you think about the conversation.”
She says legislation would make it clear that cellphone use by drivers is a no-go, and that it is perfectly acceptable to return calls when you reach your destination, or to stop and check messages along the way.
“I know people who feel guilty if they don’t have their cellphone on while in the car. This is dangerous thinking.”
Valerie Norton says until legislation is introduced banning cellphone use while driving, there are some simple steps drivers can take.
“If you need to make a call, do so before you get in the car. If your cellphone rings while you are driving, pull over before you answer it. Better still turn your phone off before you get behind the wheel.”
IPNANZ’s role is to advocate for injury prevention initiatives. It has a current membership of over 200 people working in the injury prevention field in New Zealand.