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In New Zealand the use of hand-held phones while driving was prohibited in 2009, but hands-free phones are still permitted. We recently presented the results of an observational study into mobile phone among Wellington drivers at a conference (for details see the proceedings1). The main findings were that out of 8335 cars systematically observed at traffic lights and 9520 cars in moving traffic (each at three different Wellington locations), the use of mobile phones was 1.87% (95%CI: 1.60-2.18) and 1.34% (95%CI: 1.13-1.59) respectively. As well as the significantly higher usage at traffic lights versus in moving traffic, other notable findings were: Younger drivers (<25 years) were significantly more likely to use their mobile phones while driving compared to older drivers (e.g., in moving traffic, risk ratio=2.91, 95%CI=2.00-4.22). Overall, it was much more common for drivers to use their phones in a non-ear position as for texting (at 77.8%), than next to their ear. This was also significantly higher among younger drivers compared to older drivers. It is difficult to interpret our Wellington results for 2012, relative to a pre-law study published in 2006 for Auckland2 which reported 3.9% of drivers using mobile phones while driving. Not only might there be differences by location, there were various differences in study methods. Nevertheless, the lower usage level found in our Wellington study could reflect some partial successful effect of the 2009 law that banned the use of hand-held phones while driving. Although international data are somewhat mixed as to how effective such laws are in the long-term (e.g. for the UK3 and New York4 5), it does appear that they can be successful, especially if there is stringent enforcement (e.g. Washington DC6,7). Nevertheless, the current situation in New Zealand is still problematic, given that the science around the hazard of any mobile phone use while driving keeps getting stronger (e.g. Canadian research8). Furthermore, driver distraction associated with mobile phone use may be becoming more hazardous, with greater ownership of attention-demanding smartphones and other nomadic devices. So what should be done? Continuing with New Zealand Government funded mass media campaigns around the hazard may help (as run during 2012), but a careful analysis of the message around driver distraction and the cost-effectiveness data on these campaigns should be undertaken. At the same time, we believe other options involving some combination of technological and legal changes should be explored as per the suggestions below: All new cars imported into New Zealand (e.g. from the year 2018) might be required to have technology that automatically stops mobile phones from ringing when the vehicle is in motion (along the lines discussed by others9). All new mobile phones permitted on the New Zealand market from 2018, could be required to automatically disable themselves from working when their internal GPS sensor identifies movement (albeit with an exemption for phoning the national emergency number). This option could work alongside the smart car option above, or may obviate its need. It could potentially help prevent injuries among people who use electronic devices while cycling (for whom injury risks appear elevated10). Introduce new regulations that increase fines and/or other penalties for infringements of the existing law. International evidence has shown this to have a strong deterrent effect and is key to maintaining the effectiveness of laws prohibiting drivers use of mobile phones. One option includes mobile phone confiscation from those using them while driving. Address the residual need to prohibit hands-free phones in cars given the incontrovertible evidence, collected internationally7 and in New Zealand,11 that these are also highly distracting for drivers. Legislation treating hands-free and hand-held mobile phones uniformly will also add a degree of clarity around the reason for the prohibition (driver distraction rather than manual interference) in public education campaigns, which may ultimately be needed to address the proliferation of other in-car distractions. Exemptions for commercial drivers and emergency workers could still be permitted, once drivers demonstrate appropriate knowledge around hazard mitigation (e.g. how to keep to short sentences when conversing). There should be public discussions around these various options to potentially improve them and to identify even more effective and cost-effective solutions. Nevertheless, given that passing a law is not particularly expensive in New Zealand (e.g. typically at NZ$3.5 million12,13; 95%CI: 2.0-6.2 million), it would not take long for such a new law to be cheaper than one or two mass media campaigns. But the new law would probably also be much more cost-effective than media campaigns if its effects lasted many decades into the future. So while the New Zealand Government was relatively slow to introduce the 2009 law, lets hope for better progress with the next one. Perhaps it is time for the right mix of smartphones , smart cars and smart politicians ?

Summary

Abstract

Aim

Method

Results

Conclusion

Author Information

- Nick Wilson, George Thomson- Department of Public Health, University of Otago- Wellington, New Zealand Nicola Starkey, Samuel Charlton- Traffic & Road Safety Research Group- School of Psychology, University of Waikato, - Hamilton, New Zealand-

Acknowledgements

- We thank Group B1 2012 medical students at the University of Otago, Wellington, who did the field work and contributed to the write-up of this observational study: Christopher J Drury, Zeid Abussuud, Georgina Allison, Ekta. Bhindi, Jessie Bustard, Joshua Chamberlain, Midori Fujino, Hamish Green, Leslie Harding, Ruth Ironside, Laura Judge, Kathleen Kerse, Emma Laing and Benjamin Liu.-

Correspondence

Correspondence Email

Competing Interests

- Starkey NJ, Wilson N, Charlton SG, et al. Mobile phone use while driving after a new national law in New Zealand. Proceedings of the 2013 Australasian Road Safety Research, Policing & Education Conference, 28th - 30th August, Brisbane, Queensland. http://acrs.org.au/files/arsrpe/Paper%2084%20-%20Starkey%20-%20Driver%20inattention.pdf Townsend M. Motorists' use of hand held cell phones in New Zealand: an observational study. Accid Anal Prev 2006;38:748-50. Johal S, Napier F, Britt-Compton J, Marshall T. Mobile phones and driving. J Public Health 2005;27:112-113. McCartt AT, Braver ER, Geary LL. Drivers' use of handheld cell phones before and after New York State's cell phone law. Prev Med 2003;36:629-635. McCartt AT, Geary LL. Longer term effects of New York State's law on drivers' handheld cell phone use. Inj Prev 2004;10:11-15. McCartt AT, Hellinga LA. Longer-term effects of Washington, DC, law on drivers' hand-held cell phone use. Traffic Inj Prev 2007;8:199-204. McCartt AT, Hellinga LA, Bratiman KA. Cell phones and driving: Review of research. Traffic Inj Prev 2006;7:89-106. Asbridge M, Brubacher JR, Chan H. Cell phone use and traffic crash risk: a culpability analysis. Int J Epidemiol 2013;42:259-67. Coben JH, Zhu M. Keeping an eye on distracted driving. JAMA 2013;309:877-878. Goldenbeld C, Houtenbos M, Ehlers E, De Waard D. The use and risk of portable electronic devices while cycling among different age groups. J Safety Res 2012;43:1-8. Charlton SG. Driving while conversing: cell phones that distract and passengers who react. Accid Anal Prev 2009;41:160-73. Wilson N, Nghiem N, Foster R, et al. Estimating the cost of new public health legislation. Bull World Health Organ 2012;90:532-539. BODE3 Programme. Results for the cost of making a new law, all in $NZ. 2012. http://www.otago.ac.nz/wellington/otago033080.pdf-

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In New Zealand the use of hand-held phones while driving was prohibited in 2009, but hands-free phones are still permitted. We recently presented the results of an observational study into mobile phone among Wellington drivers at a conference (for details see the proceedings1). The main findings were that out of 8335 cars systematically observed at traffic lights and 9520 cars in moving traffic (each at three different Wellington locations), the use of mobile phones was 1.87% (95%CI: 1.60-2.18) and 1.34% (95%CI: 1.13-1.59) respectively. As well as the significantly higher usage at traffic lights versus in moving traffic, other notable findings were: Younger drivers (<25 years) were significantly more likely to use their mobile phones while driving compared to older drivers (e.g., in moving traffic, risk ratio=2.91, 95%CI=2.00-4.22). Overall, it was much more common for drivers to use their phones in a non-ear position as for texting (at 77.8%), than next to their ear. This was also significantly higher among younger drivers compared to older drivers. It is difficult to interpret our Wellington results for 2012, relative to a pre-law study published in 2006 for Auckland2 which reported 3.9% of drivers using mobile phones while driving. Not only might there be differences by location, there were various differences in study methods. Nevertheless, the lower usage level found in our Wellington study could reflect some partial successful effect of the 2009 law that banned the use of hand-held phones while driving. Although international data are somewhat mixed as to how effective such laws are in the long-term (e.g. for the UK3 and New York4 5), it does appear that they can be successful, especially if there is stringent enforcement (e.g. Washington DC6,7). Nevertheless, the current situation in New Zealand is still problematic, given that the science around the hazard of any mobile phone use while driving keeps getting stronger (e.g. Canadian research8). Furthermore, driver distraction associated with mobile phone use may be becoming more hazardous, with greater ownership of attention-demanding smartphones and other nomadic devices. So what should be done? Continuing with New Zealand Government funded mass media campaigns around the hazard may help (as run during 2012), but a careful analysis of the message around driver distraction and the cost-effectiveness data on these campaigns should be undertaken. At the same time, we believe other options involving some combination of technological and legal changes should be explored as per the suggestions below: All new cars imported into New Zealand (e.g. from the year 2018) might be required to have technology that automatically stops mobile phones from ringing when the vehicle is in motion (along the lines discussed by others9). All new mobile phones permitted on the New Zealand market from 2018, could be required to automatically disable themselves from working when their internal GPS sensor identifies movement (albeit with an exemption for phoning the national emergency number). This option could work alongside the smart car option above, or may obviate its need. It could potentially help prevent injuries among people who use electronic devices while cycling (for whom injury risks appear elevated10). Introduce new regulations that increase fines and/or other penalties for infringements of the existing law. International evidence has shown this to have a strong deterrent effect and is key to maintaining the effectiveness of laws prohibiting drivers use of mobile phones. One option includes mobile phone confiscation from those using them while driving. Address the residual need to prohibit hands-free phones in cars given the incontrovertible evidence, collected internationally7 and in New Zealand,11 that these are also highly distracting for drivers. Legislation treating hands-free and hand-held mobile phones uniformly will also add a degree of clarity around the reason for the prohibition (driver distraction rather than manual interference) in public education campaigns, which may ultimately be needed to address the proliferation of other in-car distractions. Exemptions for commercial drivers and emergency workers could still be permitted, once drivers demonstrate appropriate knowledge around hazard mitigation (e.g. how to keep to short sentences when conversing). There should be public discussions around these various options to potentially improve them and to identify even more effective and cost-effective solutions. Nevertheless, given that passing a law is not particularly expensive in New Zealand (e.g. typically at NZ$3.5 million12,13; 95%CI: 2.0-6.2 million), it would not take long for such a new law to be cheaper than one or two mass media campaigns. But the new law would probably also be much more cost-effective than media campaigns if its effects lasted many decades into the future. So while the New Zealand Government was relatively slow to introduce the 2009 law, lets hope for better progress with the next one. Perhaps it is time for the right mix of smartphones , smart cars and smart politicians ?

Summary

Abstract

Aim

Method

Results

Conclusion

Author Information

- Nick Wilson, George Thomson- Department of Public Health, University of Otago- Wellington, New Zealand Nicola Starkey, Samuel Charlton- Traffic & Road Safety Research Group- School of Psychology, University of Waikato, - Hamilton, New Zealand-

Acknowledgements

- We thank Group B1 2012 medical students at the University of Otago, Wellington, who did the field work and contributed to the write-up of this observational study: Christopher J Drury, Zeid Abussuud, Georgina Allison, Ekta. Bhindi, Jessie Bustard, Joshua Chamberlain, Midori Fujino, Hamish Green, Leslie Harding, Ruth Ironside, Laura Judge, Kathleen Kerse, Emma Laing and Benjamin Liu.-

Correspondence

Correspondence Email

Competing Interests

- Starkey NJ, Wilson N, Charlton SG, et al. Mobile phone use while driving after a new national law in New Zealand. Proceedings of the 2013 Australasian Road Safety Research, Policing & Education Conference, 28th - 30th August, Brisbane, Queensland. http://acrs.org.au/files/arsrpe/Paper%2084%20-%20Starkey%20-%20Driver%20inattention.pdf Townsend M. Motorists' use of hand held cell phones in New Zealand: an observational study. Accid Anal Prev 2006;38:748-50. Johal S, Napier F, Britt-Compton J, Marshall T. Mobile phones and driving. J Public Health 2005;27:112-113. McCartt AT, Braver ER, Geary LL. Drivers' use of handheld cell phones before and after New York State's cell phone law. Prev Med 2003;36:629-635. McCartt AT, Geary LL. Longer term effects of New York State's law on drivers' handheld cell phone use. Inj Prev 2004;10:11-15. McCartt AT, Hellinga LA. Longer-term effects of Washington, DC, law on drivers' hand-held cell phone use. Traffic Inj Prev 2007;8:199-204. McCartt AT, Hellinga LA, Bratiman KA. Cell phones and driving: Review of research. Traffic Inj Prev 2006;7:89-106. Asbridge M, Brubacher JR, Chan H. Cell phone use and traffic crash risk: a culpability analysis. Int J Epidemiol 2013;42:259-67. Coben JH, Zhu M. Keeping an eye on distracted driving. JAMA 2013;309:877-878. Goldenbeld C, Houtenbos M, Ehlers E, De Waard D. The use and risk of portable electronic devices while cycling among different age groups. J Safety Res 2012;43:1-8. Charlton SG. Driving while conversing: cell phones that distract and passengers who react. Accid Anal Prev 2009;41:160-73. Wilson N, Nghiem N, Foster R, et al. Estimating the cost of new public health legislation. Bull World Health Organ 2012;90:532-539. BODE3 Programme. Results for the cost of making a new law, all in $NZ. 2012. http://www.otago.ac.nz/wellington/otago033080.pdf-

For the PDF of this article,
contact nzmj@nzma.org.nz

View Article PDF

In New Zealand the use of hand-held phones while driving was prohibited in 2009, but hands-free phones are still permitted. We recently presented the results of an observational study into mobile phone among Wellington drivers at a conference (for details see the proceedings1). The main findings were that out of 8335 cars systematically observed at traffic lights and 9520 cars in moving traffic (each at three different Wellington locations), the use of mobile phones was 1.87% (95%CI: 1.60-2.18) and 1.34% (95%CI: 1.13-1.59) respectively. As well as the significantly higher usage at traffic lights versus in moving traffic, other notable findings were: Younger drivers (<25 years) were significantly more likely to use their mobile phones while driving compared to older drivers (e.g., in moving traffic, risk ratio=2.91, 95%CI=2.00-4.22). Overall, it was much more common for drivers to use their phones in a non-ear position as for texting (at 77.8%), than next to their ear. This was also significantly higher among younger drivers compared to older drivers. It is difficult to interpret our Wellington results for 2012, relative to a pre-law study published in 2006 for Auckland2 which reported 3.9% of drivers using mobile phones while driving. Not only might there be differences by location, there were various differences in study methods. Nevertheless, the lower usage level found in our Wellington study could reflect some partial successful effect of the 2009 law that banned the use of hand-held phones while driving. Although international data are somewhat mixed as to how effective such laws are in the long-term (e.g. for the UK3 and New York4 5), it does appear that they can be successful, especially if there is stringent enforcement (e.g. Washington DC6,7). Nevertheless, the current situation in New Zealand is still problematic, given that the science around the hazard of any mobile phone use while driving keeps getting stronger (e.g. Canadian research8). Furthermore, driver distraction associated with mobile phone use may be becoming more hazardous, with greater ownership of attention-demanding smartphones and other nomadic devices. So what should be done? Continuing with New Zealand Government funded mass media campaigns around the hazard may help (as run during 2012), but a careful analysis of the message around driver distraction and the cost-effectiveness data on these campaigns should be undertaken. At the same time, we believe other options involving some combination of technological and legal changes should be explored as per the suggestions below: All new cars imported into New Zealand (e.g. from the year 2018) might be required to have technology that automatically stops mobile phones from ringing when the vehicle is in motion (along the lines discussed by others9). All new mobile phones permitted on the New Zealand market from 2018, could be required to automatically disable themselves from working when their internal GPS sensor identifies movement (albeit with an exemption for phoning the national emergency number). This option could work alongside the smart car option above, or may obviate its need. It could potentially help prevent injuries among people who use electronic devices while cycling (for whom injury risks appear elevated10). Introduce new regulations that increase fines and/or other penalties for infringements of the existing law. International evidence has shown this to have a strong deterrent effect and is key to maintaining the effectiveness of laws prohibiting drivers use of mobile phones. One option includes mobile phone confiscation from those using them while driving. Address the residual need to prohibit hands-free phones in cars given the incontrovertible evidence, collected internationally7 and in New Zealand,11 that these are also highly distracting for drivers. Legislation treating hands-free and hand-held mobile phones uniformly will also add a degree of clarity around the reason for the prohibition (driver distraction rather than manual interference) in public education campaigns, which may ultimately be needed to address the proliferation of other in-car distractions. Exemptions for commercial drivers and emergency workers could still be permitted, once drivers demonstrate appropriate knowledge around hazard mitigation (e.g. how to keep to short sentences when conversing). There should be public discussions around these various options to potentially improve them and to identify even more effective and cost-effective solutions. Nevertheless, given that passing a law is not particularly expensive in New Zealand (e.g. typically at NZ$3.5 million12,13; 95%CI: 2.0-6.2 million), it would not take long for such a new law to be cheaper than one or two mass media campaigns. But the new law would probably also be much more cost-effective than media campaigns if its effects lasted many decades into the future. So while the New Zealand Government was relatively slow to introduce the 2009 law, lets hope for better progress with the next one. Perhaps it is time for the right mix of smartphones , smart cars and smart politicians ?

Summary

Abstract

Aim

Method

Results

Conclusion

Author Information

- Nick Wilson, George Thomson- Department of Public Health, University of Otago- Wellington, New Zealand Nicola Starkey, Samuel Charlton- Traffic & Road Safety Research Group- School of Psychology, University of Waikato, - Hamilton, New Zealand-

Acknowledgements

- We thank Group B1 2012 medical students at the University of Otago, Wellington, who did the field work and contributed to the write-up of this observational study: Christopher J Drury, Zeid Abussuud, Georgina Allison, Ekta. Bhindi, Jessie Bustard, Joshua Chamberlain, Midori Fujino, Hamish Green, Leslie Harding, Ruth Ironside, Laura Judge, Kathleen Kerse, Emma Laing and Benjamin Liu.-

Correspondence

Correspondence Email

Competing Interests

- Starkey NJ, Wilson N, Charlton SG, et al. Mobile phone use while driving after a new national law in New Zealand. Proceedings of the 2013 Australasian Road Safety Research, Policing & Education Conference, 28th - 30th August, Brisbane, Queensland. http://acrs.org.au/files/arsrpe/Paper%2084%20-%20Starkey%20-%20Driver%20inattention.pdf Townsend M. Motorists' use of hand held cell phones in New Zealand: an observational study. Accid Anal Prev 2006;38:748-50. Johal S, Napier F, Britt-Compton J, Marshall T. Mobile phones and driving. J Public Health 2005;27:112-113. McCartt AT, Braver ER, Geary LL. Drivers' use of handheld cell phones before and after New York State's cell phone law. Prev Med 2003;36:629-635. McCartt AT, Geary LL. Longer term effects of New York State's law on drivers' handheld cell phone use. Inj Prev 2004;10:11-15. McCartt AT, Hellinga LA. Longer-term effects of Washington, DC, law on drivers' hand-held cell phone use. Traffic Inj Prev 2007;8:199-204. McCartt AT, Hellinga LA, Bratiman KA. Cell phones and driving: Review of research. Traffic Inj Prev 2006;7:89-106. Asbridge M, Brubacher JR, Chan H. Cell phone use and traffic crash risk: a culpability analysis. Int J Epidemiol 2013;42:259-67. Coben JH, Zhu M. Keeping an eye on distracted driving. JAMA 2013;309:877-878. Goldenbeld C, Houtenbos M, Ehlers E, De Waard D. The use and risk of portable electronic devices while cycling among different age groups. J Safety Res 2012;43:1-8. Charlton SG. Driving while conversing: cell phones that distract and passengers who react. Accid Anal Prev 2009;41:160-73. Wilson N, Nghiem N, Foster R, et al. Estimating the cost of new public health legislation. Bull World Health Organ 2012;90:532-539. BODE3 Programme. Results for the cost of making a new law, all in $NZ. 2012. http://www.otago.ac.nz/wellington/otago033080.pdf-

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