NZ Government increases fines for texting and driving

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Words: Matthew Hansen
16 Apr 2021

The government has confirmed an increase to the fines incurred by drivers caught using their phones while driving, kicking off from April 30.

Drivers found to be using their device behind the wheel will be fined $150; nearly double the previous $80 fine. Each of these pales in comparison to the fines handed out for similar offences in Australia, which can be as much as $1000 in places like Queensland.

It’s been reported that between 2015 and 2019, mobile phone distraction has been a direct cause of 22 fatalities on New Zealand roads and 73 serious injuries.

The news comes as Australia ramps up its roll-out of high-tech mobile phone detection cameras. These will be mounted on static structures, like traffic lights and power poles, and will photograph each passing car’s front occupants. The cameras use artificial intelligence to detect whether the driver is using their phone in the images taken.

As reported earlier this week, the cameras have been subject to trials in states across Australia for a few years. Now, Victoria has decided to deploy them fully, with Queensland rumoured to be the next state to follow suit.

In a brief statement to NZ Autocar, a New Zealand Police spokesperson said that the group intends to study Victoria’s phone detection camera results, adding that, for the moment, the camera technology isn’t on New Zealand’s immediate radar.

“Police [are] always interested in technology and initiatives to improve road safety outcomes. There are no current plans by NZ Police to introduce this technology but we will monitor the deployment in Victoria with interest,” said the spokesperson.

A recent US study conducted by Wakefield Research polled 1800 people about technology and how it impacts their driving. The study reports that 68 per cent of respondents use their phones to multitask, with 62 per cent saying the sound of their phone getting a call or text makes them want to check it while driving. All up, 64 per cent said they check their phones while driving.

Almost 30 per cent of respondents claimed that they felt they could check their phones while driving and still feel like they’re safe drivers — a result that’s increased by a staggering 6 per cent since the last study conducted by the same group in 2020.

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