HEALTH AND SAFETY - Mobile phone rules

Monday, May 11, 2020

A couple of weeks ago I was talking to a friend who had been stopped in a line of traffic because of an accident. He reached down, picked up his phone to take a photo of the accident, and decided that it was not appropriate to do so – because of the people’s privacy, not the rules about phone usage. Unfortunately, a policeman at the scene saw him do this and pulled him over. A fairly short time later my friend was $80 poorer and 20 demerit points richer. Since then he has been noticing how many people use their mobile phones while driving, many of them quite blatantly. NZTA reports that, in 2018, driver distraction was a contributing factor in 12 fatal crashes, 155 serious injury crashes and 956 minor injury crashes.

This might be a good time to review the legislation around phone use in vehicles while driving. The driver must not:
• make, receive, or terminate a telephone call;
• create, send, or read a text message;
• create, send, or read an email;
• create, send, or view a video message;
• use a mobile phone to communicate in a way similar to the above.

However, the driver may:
• use the phone to make a 111 or *555 call, and it is unsafe or impracticable for the driver to stop and park the vehicle to make the call;
• make, receive, or terminate a telephone call if the phone does not require the driver to hold or manipulate it to make, receive, or terminate the call;
• make, receive, or terminate a telephone call if the vehicle has stopped for a reason other than the normal starting and stopping of vehicles in a flow of traffic.

If using a phone rather than hands-free or Bluetooth, the phone must be secured in a mounting fixed to the vehicle; and the driver may only look at it infrequently and briefly. In short, mobile phones are a temptation that is hard to resist. We have become accustomed to immediate interactions and find it very difficult to resist using our phones, even when we know better. The phone should be left out of sight and reach, connected to a hands-free device, or turned off. Pull safely to the side of the road when using the phone if you are likely to be distracted by the conversation. Note that the definition of a mobile phone does not include CB or other two-way radios.

Refer to the Land Transport (Road User) Rule 2004 or the NZTA website ( for more information.