No driving and phoning – unless …

No driving and phoning – unless …

As of the 1st November, using a hand-held mobile phone while driving in New Zealand will be an offence.

Before this law was made official, police officers could simply use their discretion and classify the crime as “driving without due care and attention”.

Now we seem to have gone down the same route as the smacking ban law.

Gerard Campbell and Will Harvie of The Press write:

You’ve probably seen it dozens of times. Stopped at a roundabout you see a four-wheel-drive travel through, a mobile phone stuck to the ear of the driver.

(with the new law) you can be pulled over by police if you’re seen texting or using a phone while driving and you’ll face an $80 fine and 20 demerit points on your driver’s licence.

I’m not quite sure that the problem only relates to four-wheel-drives. Actually, I can’t see any correlation at all – surely the main culprits are professional business people and surely most of them drive a Honda Accord?

I also wonder what this will do to stop the problem. Personally, I think the issue lies more with driving while texting, not talking. To text often means that the driver’s eyes are off the road and looking down at their cellphone. Reading the finer details shows that the no-texting thing is actually in the new law but is far less prominent than the whole “talking on the phone” thing.

As is often the case, the new law comes with a whole heap of clauses to give people a variety of loopholes to worm their way through.

According to the article on stuff.co.nz (italics mine):

What’s allowed

* Using a phone if “stuck in traffic due to the road ahead being blocked, for example, because of an accident”. This does not apply when drivers are “stationary in the normal flow of traffic, such as approaching intersections, traffic lights or roadworks”.

Er ok so here’s a scenario: Cop pulls you over for talking on the phone while in traffic. You say “I thought that there was an accident ahead. We are in traffic after all”. Cop says “Well .. yeah … actually I can’t prove that you didn’t think that so carry on.”


* Making or receiving calls if the driver does not have to “hold or manipulate the phone” (that is, the phone is fully voice-activated).

In my experience, most voice-activated phones require a lot of user manipulation anyway. the voice recognition robot never gets the kiwi accent just right.


* Making or receiving calls if the phone is “secured in a mounting fixed to the vehicle”. This typically means a cradle, or fully integrated systems. But the driver can only manipulate a securely mounted phone “infrequently and briefly”.

Infrequently and briefly? So … just to enter in the numbers then? That always takes me ages on my touch-screen phone! Plus “typically” means a cradle? Can I glue an elastic band to my sun-visor and slip the phone in there?


* Using music functions of phones, provided the device is mounted.

Why mounted?? I just turn on my phone’s music, put my headphones on (or leave them off and turn on the phone’s own speaker) and put the phone in my pocket. Pretty safe in there. I don’t get it.


* Making genuine emergency 111 calls. This includes genuine *555 calls, which are used to report dangerous driving.

Wait, wait, wait … so I see a guy using his cellphone while driving and I call *555 to report the guy meaning that I myself and now talking on a cellphone while driving. WTF? What about the guy behind me who sees me reporting the dangerous driving and so picks up his own cellphone and also dials *555?


What’s not allowed

* Making or receiving calls using a phone loud speaker unless the phone is securely mounted. “You cannot hold or manipulate a phone to answer or make a call, even if you use it on loud speaker when talking”, under new rules.

I used to be a sales rep and had a mounted cradle for my phone. To answer the phone, you either pressed a button on the cradle or a button on the phone. Are they saying I couldn’t press the button on the phone now? That would be manipulating the phone right? Plus a lot of sales rep’s cars connect to their phones through bluetooth devices. There’s no need to even take the phone out of your pocket.


* Using a phone while on a bike or motorbike.

A friend of mine has just bought a helmet mounted blue-tooth headset. It allows him to use his phone without requiring his hands, plus he can talk to the rear passenger and so can communicate any hazards or problems with them. But apparently this is also now illegal.


Not a proper cellphone mounting.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m sure this will help to reduce car accidents. But to be honest, I was quite happy to leave it at the police officer’s discretion. With all these loop holes, the phone user seems to have more ways to get out of a fine than they did when the officer could just say they were driving without due care and attention.

I also think there should be a lot less faffing around with all this mounted and un-mounted rubbish and a lot more focus on pushing the “no-texting” message.

This whole law seems to have been written by someone who probably gets the bus to work. I mean, “no using your phone for music unless it’s mounted in a cradle”? What’s that all about? My cell phone has it’s own speaker and does a great job just sitting in my car’s CD holder. Now I have to go and buy a cradle for it? Are we talking $300 integrated stereo system here or a $10 plastic repco job? Can’t I just tape it to my face?

I’m looking forward to reading the Monday morning news and seeing how many criminals they catch and the variety of excuses they receive.