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John MacDonald: Tougher action needed on phones and driving

John MacDonald,
Publish Date
Wed, 1 Nov 2023, 1:21PM
Photo / Getty
Photo / Getty

John MacDonald: Tougher action needed on phones and driving

John MacDonald,
Publish Date
Wed, 1 Nov 2023, 1:21PM

Do you reckon we’re kidding ourselves thinking that a $150 fine is enough to put people off using their phones when they’re driving? 

From what I see, I think we are. I was at an intersection the other day, waiting for the lights, and I saw this driver in the car next to me had their phone sitting on the steering wheel. 

So they were using the steering wheel as if it was a computer stand at home or in the office. 

And I thought, ‘oh well, when the lights go green, surely they'll put the phone down’. But, guess what? They didn't. 

The lights changed and they just cruised through the intersection, tap-tap-tapping on the phone, which was still sitting on the steering wheel. 

I could say to you that I couldn’t believe what I saw. But that would be lying. Because it was no surprise to me at all. We are such a bunch of idiots when it comes to using phones while we drive. 

And yes, I say “we” because there are times when I reach for the phone when I shouldn’t. 

There’s a truckie speaking out today because he is sick and tired of seeing drivers texting and emailing on their phones. And not just on their phones. Would you believe that he’s seen people using laptops behind the wheel too? 

Tony Brooke is his name. He drives trucks in the North Island. And he says he has 

“seen it all” when it comes to drivers being distracted because they are really super important and need to send that text message or post something on Facebook ASAP. 

No time to pull over. Has to be done now. 

Trucker Tony has had cars nearly ploughing into his 50-tonne haulage truck because of drivers distracted on their phones, and he wants us to get real with punishments dished out to these drivers. 

He thinks the $150 fine isn't enough. And I fully agree with him. Even as someone who has been pinged myself for using the phone while driving.  

In my defence, I had one hand on the phone which was sitting on the passenger seat and I was looking at it while the car wasn't moving, waiting to go through a roundabout. 

And a particularly committed traffic cop who patrols our part of town - “particularly committed” isn't the way most people describe him - but there he was watching me 

So I’m not coming at this with any sort of holier-than-thou attitude. But I reckon if the penalties were increased to the tune of what Trucker Tony is calling for today, we would see a lot more people taking the ban on using phones while driving much more seriously 

He thinks that instead of $150 it should be $500. And as well as the fine, you should lose your phone for 24 hours. 

That bit of it could be tricky for the cops. Finishing the day with a bunch of phones to store somewhere overnight. But if we are going to get serious about this, then we need to get serious about the penalties. 

A $500 fine would really make me think before I did the old sly phone resting-on-the-leg trick. And hopefully it would really make the driver I just told you about before think. Driving with the phone sitting on the steering wheel. 

Because we are so slack in this country when it comes to giving our full attention to driving. We treat driving as just another multi-task, don't we? And if you think you don’t, then you’re either dreaming, in denial or you’re the safest driver New Zealand has ever seen. 

But most of us aren’t like that. And that’s why I’m with Trucker Tony. Because you don’t have to drive a 50-tonne truck to know that mobile phones and driving are a menace, and something has to be done about it. 

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