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Government ignored advice that cellphone ban wouldn't work

The government ignored major overseas studies showing that motorists tend to ignore cellphone bans when it passed its anti-cellphone legislation.

Recent studies in New Zealand have confirmed that the cellphone ban is being widely ignored. A recent American study also suggests laws that ban texting while driving are ineffective at best and could be counter-productive because they encourage surreptitious behaviour behind the wheel.

The government also ignored various major studies showing that fines don’t deter the highest risk groups on the road.

Dog & Lemon Guide editor Clive Matthew-Wilson – whose road safety research was awarded by the Australian Police Journal – says:

“I hate to say ‘I told you so’, but I did warn that the government at the time that its ban would not work. Now let’s focus on what does work.”

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

Under Matthew-Wilson’s proposal, every police car would carry a pre-printed receipt book and a few pre-paid padded postal envelopes. Instead of issuing a ticket, the officer would instruct the offending driver to write his or her address onto the envelope. The officer would then place the cellphone into the envelope, seal it and drop the envelope into the nearest mailbox. The offender would get his/her cellphone back by registered mail in a few days.
The officer would also note the offender’s details, and after two offences the cellphone would be permanently seized.

Matthew-Wilson says that simply banning cellphones doesn’t work because many users are prepared to risk a fine rather than miss a call. However, says Matthew-Wilson, most cellphone users would hate to lose their cellphone – even temporarily – and this fear would eventually modify their behavior.

“Cellphone use by drivers is banned in many countries, yet drivers continue to use their cellphones regardless. Clearly, we need to move beyond simply giving drivers tickets to taking their cellphones away.”

“What cars and cellphones have in common is that they give the owner freedom. Take away that freedom and you give drivers a powerful incentive to modify their behavior.”