Government must make tough decisions to lower road toll

The New Zealand government must give the police new powers to deal with motorists who won’t wear seatbelts and drivers who use cellphones, says the car review website

Editor Clive Matthew Wilson, who is an outspoken road safety campaigner, says:

“The government is going to have to upset a lot of people if it wants to significantly reduce the growing road carnage.”

Instead of fining drivers who use handheld cellphones, Matthew-Wilson believes the police should have the power to permanently confiscate cellphones used by drivers while a vehicle is in motion.

The American National Safety Council estimates 26% of all traffic crashes involve drivers using cellphones.

New South Wales road safety officials recently declared that texting, surfing the internet or talking on the phone while driving is now one of the top five causes of fatalities on NSW roads.

An estimated 5% of crashes involve texting, while 21% involve drivers talking on handheld or hands-free cellphones.

Matthew-Wilson also believes the police should have the power to temporarily detain vehicles in which the occupants are not wearing seatbelts.

“A high percentage of people who die in car accidents are not wearing seatbelts. The current strategy of fining the occupants is clearly not working. In fact, the best evidence suggests fines don’t work for the highest risk groups.”

“Temporarily detaining offenders’ vehicles for a few hours in a nearby carpark, is likely to have a powerful effect on whether or not seatbelts are used. For example, if you’re on the way to the beach and your vehicle gets detained because you weren’t wearing seatbelts, it’s going to ruin your whole day. Next time you’re much more likely to wear your seatbelts, because you don’t want to lose your car again.”

“What cars and cellphones have in common is that they give their owners freedom. Take away that freedom and you give vehicle users a powerful incentive to modify their behaviour.”