Linda Hall: Mobile phones costing lives

By Linda Hall

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Linda Hall is assistant editor at Hawke's Bay Today.
Linda Hall is assistant editor at Hawke's Bay Today.

On November 1 it will be five years since it became illegal to use a handheld mobile while driving.

Yet last week, in just six hours over three days, police caught 37 drivers doing just that.

Imagine the outcry if these drivers had all been over the alcohol limit. We would be horrified that these dangerous people were driving on our roads putting us at risk.

We would be praising the police for catching them and keeping us safe.

Do you think police will get the same praise for last week's effort?

Well actually I've been really surprised by the comments on Hawke's Bay Today's website and Facebook.

Most people are saying "good on the police, about time something was done". I was expecting more negative comments about revenue gathering and wasting time.

Perhaps people are getting sick and tired of seeing drivers blatantly breaking the law and putting others on the road in danger.

I don't like missing calls. I hate it when I'm outside and the landline rings.

I run like hell but usually miss it. Then I wonder who it was and sometimes ring around saying "did you just ring me?".

We always think it must be something important but more often than not it's just someone ringing for a chat.

It's different with a cell phone especially if it's a work one. These days some people feel they have to be on call 24/7.

If the phone rings while you are driving and you take your eyes off the road to see who the caller is, that's the first risk you take.

Then if it's the boss some people think they must answer straight away.

I bet there is not one "boss" out there who would expect their employee to answer the phone while they are driving.

The might expect them to find somewhere to pull over and call them back within a reasonable time but I don't believe anyone wants their employees breaking the law.

The ringing phone is distraction enough. I immediately want to know who's ringing me and why, however, I never pick it up when I'm driving and I have never texted while driving.

I have been in the car with someone who was doing this and it was bloody scary.

There are enough distractions for drivers as it is. Kids, radios, billboards, pedestrians - the list goes on.

I remember laughing with my daughter years ago when she told me she had been walking down the footpath and two young men drove passed her tooting, whistling and waving out the window.

The car in front of them stopped suddenly and they went right up its rear. I hasten to add that no one was hurt and I'm sure the driver of the car they hit didn't think it was funny.

There are always going to be unexpected things that distract us while we drive but if the unexpected does happen and you are already talking on your phone you have less chance of avoiding tragedy.

The reason the law was bought in in the first place was because of crashes.

According to Ministry of Transport statistics, mobile phones or other telecommunications devices were a contributing factor in 25 fatal smashes and 482 injury crashes between 2003-2008.

Just last month Tauranga mother Tracey O'Brien, aged 26, died in a crash that badly injured her two preschool-aged children.

Police say preliminary indications were that she might have been texting. If she was, the decision to do so cost her life.

The father of the children, Matt Ruddell, from Tauranga, is looking to start a campaign to stop people texting while driving.

Let's support him.

Let's also make it clear to everyone we know and love that we don't want or expect them to answer calls while they are driving.

If you really feel your life depends on answering the phone at all costs, there is a simple solution, get a hands free.

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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