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Mobile phone ban – what do I need to know?

From November 1, 2009 it will be illegal for drivers to talk or send text messages on handheld mobile phones. If you’re like us, you’ll still be a little cloudy on the finer points. To clarify things we’ve picked the bones out of the legislation to answer those common queries.

While research suggests over 75% of Kiwis support a ban on their use while driving, over half of us still admit to using a mobile phone – at least occasionally – at the wheel. That number will no doubt decline with the November 1 outlawing of the practice. Punishable by an $80 dollar fine and a 20 demerit point penalty no less. Ouch.

Surely they don’t mean me? Yep, the rule relates to operators of all vehicles that share the road. Including motorcycle, mopeds and scooter riders, cyclists, even those in a mobility scooter.

Define cellphone? Sounds obvious, but the rule actually extends to any electronic device that provides a form of mobile telecommunications and/or email, including PDAs and Blackberry devices. It doesn’t include CB radios or any other kind of two-way radio however. Oddly, satellite navigation and music systems will still be allowed to be used, but only if solidly mounted to the vehicle and used only briefly and infrequently.

What about hands free systems? Earpiece or microphone devices that connect either physically or wirelessly to your phone are allowed to be used, providing they allow phone use without the driver needing to hold or manipulate it. So long as the phone is held in a securely mounted cradle device (no, not a cup holder) the driver is allowed to call a number, receive or end a call using a hand’s free system.

What if I’m not moving? Drivers stuck in traffic due to the road ahead being blocked because of unforeseen circumstances like an accident, may use their phone to make, send and receive calls. But this doesn’t apply to when you are stationary in the normal flow of traffic such as at traffic lights or road works.

Can I pull over to use my phone? Never on the motorway or other no parking areas unless it is for emergency or breakdown assistance. Common sense prevails, people, always look for a safe area to pull over, or leave it till the end of your journey.

Are there exceptions? Calls to *555 will still be allowed but only where it is unsafe or impractical to pull over. The exemption does not include driver hotline numbers on the back of heavy vehicles.


By Steve Vermeulen

Auto Trader New Zealand