Leah Panapa: #PutDownYourPhone

Opinion 06/09/2019

By Leah Panapa, Magic Talk Nights host.

In a three-hour police operation in Wellington earlier this week, more than 100 drivers were caught using their cellphones.

The sting was carried out in the capitals CBD during peak travel time and resulted in Police issuing 117 infringement notices, 102 of which were for using a mobile phone while driving.

It's not only illegal but bloody dangerous and downright stupid!

What is disturbing is the message is obviously not getting through to drivers that talking on a handheld phone or texting is not only illegal but bloody dangerous and downright stupid!

Currently if you are caught using your phone in the car, and that includes sitting stationary, you will receive an $80 fine and 20 demerit points. It is so insignificant, how can we even call it a penalty with a straight face?

Example: a dairy owner can be slapped with a $1000 fine for selling a packet of cigarettes to a minor, but someone driving a car, whilst looking down to text or scroll through social media, not just endangering their life but those around them, gets pinged a measly $80 bucks!

The rest of the world seems to be taking it seriously, even if we are not.

A senior minister in Queensland is pushing for a nationwide on-the-spot $1000 fine for drivers caught using their mobile phones. Mark Bailey says if the driver’s caught for a second time, then it is a loss of licence.

Currently the fine is $500 in Australia.

In New York, police are trialling ‘textalysers’ which are similar to alcohol breathalysers and look to detect whether using a mobile phone contributed to a crash.

In the UK, you can get penalty points and $400 fine, and lose your licence if you passed your driving test in the last 2 years. In Canada, its a $1000 fine with a 3 day licence suspension and demerit points.

Just to remind ourselves: New Zealand, 20 demerit points and an $80 fine.

The NZTA states that sending or reading a text message takes a drivers eyes off the road for 4.6 seconds and at 90 kph that is like driving the length of a rugby field blindfolded.

The government may not be blindfolded but they are asleep behind the wheel when it comes to this ‘addiction’ as a nation we have with our phones and the lives that are put in danger on our roads on a daily basis.

Leah Panapa is host of Magic Talk Nights.