Government ready to act on cellphones in cars

The Cabinet will today discuss a raft of road safety measures, including a ban on using cellphones in cars.

The move comes just days after Ohope teenager Sharleen Lloyd was killed when her car crashed into a parked trailer.

Police suspect that the 16-year-old was sending a text message at the time of the crash.

But that allegation was rejected yesterday by her father, Eric, who said that those first on the scene had told him her mobile phone was in her handbag.

Miss Lloyd's death on Thursday is being seen as possibly the third this year in which text messaging has been implicated.

Teenager Inia Motu Rauwhero Roberts died in January while driving a tractor at the Whitford Landfill. A cellphone with a half-written text message was found lying on the ground near the 15-year-old's body.

In May, Andrew Kenneth Hicks from Foxton was killed when he crashed into a power pole after being distracted by text messages while driving.

Transport Safety Minister Harry Duynhoven - who is set to launch a road safety policy statement on Wednesday with Transport Minister Annette King - has repeatedly called for a law change to ban cellphone use in vehicles.

He said yesterday that using cellphones while driving should be banned but conceded there would be challenges upholding any such laws.

"I think cellphones should be banned simply to give the police another tool in the fight against the road toll," he told TV3.

"I think the real difficulties are policing them and the fact they're an all-pervasive device."

Mr Duynhoven told the Herald last night that the policy statement's recommendations would focus on education rather than prosecution but did not rule out legislation.

Several countries already prohibit the use of hand-held cellphones while driving.

Police Association chairman Greg O'Connor said yesterday that texting while driving was "bloody stupid" and drivers who did could be charged with the careless use of a motor vehicle.

Telecom spokesman John Goulter described the practice as "foolish" and said the company's literature urged customers to pull over to answer incoming calls.

Land Transport New Zealand has said research showed that a loss of concentration while on a mobile phone and driving, rather than physically holding a phone, posed the greater risk.

Mr Duynhoven told the Herald on Sunday he wants to see all MPs get behind moves that would limit cellphone use while driving.

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