From 1 November it will be against the road rules for drivers to text or talk on a handheld cell phone while driving
The change is part of the Land Transport (Road User) Amendment Rule and will see drivers using handheld mobile phones receive an infringement notice - an $80 fine and 20 demerit points.
Transport Minister Steven Joyce says that driver distraction – particularly through the use of cell phones – is a real issue on our roads.
“There are a lot of other distractions while driving but handheld mobile phone use has grown to become a significant problem. The reality is we need to send a strong signal to all road users that it’s not on."
Drivers will still be able to use hands-free devices and two-way radio under the ban. There would also be an exemption for 111 calls made for genuine emergencies.
Joyce says allowing hands-free recognises that many business and trades people depend on being available on their cell phones for their livelihood, and that hands-free phones are less distracting to operate than handheld phones.
Between 2003 and 2008, there were 482 injury crashes and 25 fatal crashes in New Zealand where the use of a mobile phone or other telecommunications device was identified as a contributing factor.
The Road User Rule also includes a requirement for motorcyclists and moped riders to operate headlights during daylight hours. The number of motorcycle crashes has increased rapidly in recent years as motorcycle usage has grown in popularity again. This requirement will help to ensure that motorcyclists are visible to other road users.
The Rule contains 23 relatively minor and technical changes to improve road safety, clarify existing laws, reduce compliance costs, assist enforcement, and improve traffic flow.
Read our expert comment on cell phones in cars here.