Saturday, October 31, 2009

Driving with cellphones

I'm writing this in the closing few minutes of October 2009 and by the time I finish it will be November. On November 1st it becomes illegal to use a hand-held mobile phone while driving. The penalty will be a modest $80 fine and 20 demerit points.

We've been getting the usual propaganda for the last few months on how it is unsafe to phone and drive. The message has been paid adverts and an endless succession of reportage from tame journalists echoing the official line. The figures that keep being repeated are 4 times more likely to have an accident while talking on the phone and that it is as dangerous to use a mobile phone while driving as it is to drink and drive.

If this is true, why on earth is the penalty so low? Or to put that another way why are our politicians so gutless about this?

There's only a very few options here:

  • It isn't as dangerous as is claimed (Please note I'm not disputing that it's dangerous)
  • Driving under the influence of alcohol isn't as dangerous as claimed. (Again, I don't believe this)
  • As alcohol is a drug, our politicians are wanting to punish it more for moral reasons
  • Our politicians are too gutless to take road safety seriously.
My money's on a combination of the last two; but I've been wrong before.

Whatever the truth of the matter, we have an appalling road toll in New Zealand and it's about time that the authorities started taking enforcing the road laws seriously.


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