Government increase in fines for illegal use of cellphones in cars ‘pathetic'

The government’s slight increase in fines for drivers illegally using cellphones is ‘pathetic’, says the car review website

Editor Clive Matthew-Wilson, who is an outspoken road safety campaigner, says many drivers will simply continue to use cellphones and accept the risk of a higher penalty.

“There are still hundreds of thousands of drivers using cellphones while driving. They accept the risk of a fine in the same way they accept the risk of a parking ticket. These penalties do little to change behaviour.”

“A driver who’s prepared to risk an $80 fine and 20 demerit points is also very likely to accept the risk of a $150 fine and 20 demerit points.”

“The government’s announcement is clearly designed to please everyone, but will ultimately please no one. If the government is serious about protecting innocent people on our roads, then the penalties for cellphone use while driving need to be far more unpleasant.”

Matthew-Wilson wants the police to permanently seize cellphones used by the drivers of moving vehicles.

“First offence you lose your cellphone. Second offence you lose your cellphone and your number. Third offence you lose your cellphone and your number, plus your car is impounded for seven days.”

Matthew-Wilson believes the New Zealand government has consistently underestimated how much cellphone use contributes to the road toll.

The American National Safety Council estimates 26% of all traffic crashes involve drivers using cellphones. Young drivers are now regularly using social media while driving. It’s also common for drivers to use software such as Facetime to video themselves while they are driving, with predictable results.”

“The New Zealand government needs to stop pussyfooting around on this issue and take firm action to save lives."


• Clive Matthew-Wilson has been actively campaigning on road safety and consumer issues for 25 years. Mentored by engineer Chris Coxon (former technical chair and founding member of the Australian New Car Assessment Program – ANCAP), Matthew-Wilson was the first person to publish crash test results in New Zealand. His research into seatbelt upgrades was awarded by the Australian Police Journal. Matthew-Wilson is a strong supporter of pedestrians’ and cyclists’ rights and has helped shape many major road safety policies in New Zealand.