New Zealand minister calls for ban on using mobile phones while driving

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Sunday, December 10, 2006

Harry Doynhoven, minister for transport safety, has called for a ban on using mobile phones (cellphones) while driving in New Zealand. The ban comes just days after a teenager was killed after allegedly driving while texting on their mobile phone.

Mr Duynhoven said that it is time to ban hand-held mobile phones in cars. "I would love to ban it. If I were a benign dictator, it would be gone by lunchtime." Mr Duynhoven believes that a campaign to educate the public is needed to combat the number of people who die while using their mobile phones while driving. One of the new ways to combat this is suspected to be new road safety measure. The new initiatives will be announced on Wednesday.

"I hope that sufficient parliamentarians who read the reports of another young person who obviously wasn't concentrating on her driving will say it's about time something was done," Mr Duynhoven said, "However such a ban would be very difficult to police."

A report, prepared by the Ministry of Transport, will be shown to the government on the dangers of using a mobile phone while driving. Peter Burke, spokesman for the Ministry of Transport, said: "There's no law against using a cellphone at the moment. There's the whole issue of driver distraction of which cellphone use is a part. But there's been no decision on it yet. Anyone who texts while you're driving is pushing the limits. I don't think anyone would condone texting while driving, it's a recipe for disaster."

Every year around four fatal crashes occur because the drivers are using their mobile phones while driving. Around 50 non fatal crashes occur each year for the same reason. However the police expect that the actual number is higher.

"A lot of drivers are unfortunately their own worst enemy - they're busy talking and texting on the phone and fail to pay attention to what's going on around them. The results can be, and often are, crashes which cause injury and death," Rob Lee, spokesman for the police, said.

Sharleen Lloyd, 16-years-old, was killed when she drove her car into a parked trailer after it left the road because she was allegedly texting (SMS) on her mobile phone. Her passenger and boyfriend, Matthew Smit, had non fatal injuries. Andrew Hicks died when he crashed into a powerpole as a result from using his cellphone while driving.

Many countries already have a ban in place of using a mobile phone while driving, including the United Kingdom and the United States of America. Mr Duynhoven said: "But in countries where they have bans, they still have people using cellphones while driving. The issue is changing behaviour."

However New Zealand does currently have a law which enables police to prosecute someone who doesn't give attention or care to driving.

Sources

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