back to article New Oz road rules forbid touching mobes

Motorists in Australia's most populous state, New South Wales, will not be permitted to even touch their mobile phones while their car engine is running, under new laws to take effect on November 1st. Outlined in this document (PDF), the new road rules state that “While a vehicle is moving or stationary (but not parked), a …

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WTF?

"not be permitted to even touch their mobile phones while their car engine is running"

Perfectly safe: Pull into parking spot, put car in park, turn off car, grab phone, put in pocket.

OH MY GOD YOU'RE GOING TO DIE: Pull into parking spot, put car in park, grab phone, put in pocket, turn off car.

Seriously - what's wrong with these people? If it's so dangerous to use the volume up/down keys on my phone, why is it not dangerous to do the same thing with an MP3 player? Must be the evil phone-rays somehow affect the danger level of your actions; any kind of movement in the vicinity of Evil Phone-Rays is tantamount to a death wish, while similar actions without Evil Phone-Rays nearby (drinking from a bottle you take out of the cup holder, patting your wife on the leg, opening or closing a window, changing your seat position, adjusting the air vents, etc) are A-OK.

Damn you, Evil Phone-Rays! Damn you!

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Anonymous Coward

One of those rules that is almost impossible to enforce unless you are so un observant you don't see the plod next to you.

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Anonymous Coward

What about lighting and smoking a cigarette? Just as distracting.

Can help but agree though, texting and driving, see it all the time, 9/10 times nothing happens but that 1/10 when you get caught out someone dies or gets injured.

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Anonymous Coward

cyclist's perspective

"Seriously - what's wrong with these people? If it's so dangerous to use the volume up/down keys on my phone, why is it not dangerous to do the same thing with an MP3 player?"

As a car owning cyclist (to save the usual you don't par car tax sniping - and no, a lot of modern vehicles don't either), my daily experience is that at least once and usually several times on my cycle to and from work, I have to take avoiding action as a motorist cuts across me at a roundabout, tries to overtake me and immediately turn left, drifts into the left - it's noticeable that many times the driver is distracted, either by tossing off on facebook, texting, fiddling with the radio or equally common, seemingly unaware of any other road users.

The partial ban on mobile use is completely flouted, and having been knocked off twice in recent years by mobile distracted drivers (both ladies - so much for multi-tasking!), and seen the aftermath of a cyclist killed by a lorry driver who subsequently turned out to have been busy fiddling with his mobile, the move by the NSW government can only be a good thing if it's enforced. This would clearly never work in the UK though as the Police not only don't enforce the existing rules, but are also complicit in breaking them, if the number of police cars stopped in the Advanced Stop box is anything to go by.

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Anonymous Coward

"not be permitted to even touch their mobile phones while their car engine is running"

easy answer, buy an electric car :)

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Re: cyclist's perspective

.....and only this morning I came across a cyclist for whom road traffic laws clearly don't apply - riding the wrong way along a one way street and ignoring the fact that the crossing ahead of him was in pedestrian phase so there were people crossing. I guess he is just too damned important.

Cyclists are just as bad - and are often their own worst enemy - having a healthy dose of "whatever happens - or how ever stupidly I behave its the cars fault" mixed with some sort of confusion that they are still pedestrians and don't have to comply with the laws relating to wheeled traffic Including giving way at junctions, complying with one way streets and stopping at red lights (both junction and pedestrian crossing signals), and don't get me started on the f*ckwits at night without lights.

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Alert

Re: cyclist's perspective

The partial ban on mobile use is completely flouted,

Solution: change the law so that after every collision, phone records are checked. If you were doing anything illegal or dangerous (phoning, drunk, speeding, overtaking too close) leading up to the accident, you lose your license for 10 years. Second offence: life without driving.

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JDX
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almost impossible to enforce

One of those rules that is almost impossible to enforce unless you are so un observant you don't see the plod next to you.

You mean like how it's impossible to enforce car-pool lanes? Oh wait... they do enforce those.

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Silver badge

>What about lighting and smoking a cigarette? Just as distracting.

Whilst the actual action of lighting a cigarette may be distracting, nicotine actually increases your focus and visual concentration - even in non-smokers (when tested across a range of tasks in an MRI scanner, some test subjects wearing a nicotine patch, some a placebo patch). Search for 'nicotine visual concentration' to find more detail of more studies.

A road system that demanded 100% concentration at all times would be dangerous, since it is an unsustainable demand on the driver - there are margins. Lighting a cigarette doesn't require the eyes to be taken off the road for more than a fraction of a second, and is safe if the driver plans ahead and chooses the right moment to do it.

And remember kids, don't start smoking, you won't notice the negative health impacts yet, but they're a bugger when they catch up on you. But you know that already, cos you're not stupid and can read the warnings on the packet.

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Re: cyclist's perspective

There are bad cyclists, there are bad drivers.

Of the 2 I know which I would prefer to be hit by.

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Re: cyclist's perspective

The AC's post was about his personal experience of how drivers behave when using mobile phones, and is therefore pertinent to the discussion. Yours is about cyclists and therefore isn't. But to indulge you a little I would comment that I have seen dumb things done by both parties on many many occasions, but rarely if ever have I seen a cyclist do something I thought was dangerous to anyone other than themselves. So yes, cyclists are just as bad in that there are good ones and bad ones just like car drivers, but the vehicle they're in control of just isn't so potentially lethal as a car. For that reason alone, I find bad cycling annoying but bad driving absolutely reprehensible. Its kind of like the difference between seeing someone pissed with an air horn, and someone pissed with a machette.

Back on topic, I would wager that almost everyone who drives has been guilty at some time or another of a hair raising moment that was in some way due to a mobile phone. 99.9% of the time you get away with it and tell youself that you were rather silly and won't do it again. But it is a statistically undeniable fact that accidents are sometimes caused by a driver being distracted by a mobile phone. I don't know if this law will help much, but it certainly doesn't leave a lot of grey area.

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Re: cyclist's perspective

Let's face it, people using mobiles while driving are a menace, and let's face it, enforcement is practically nowhere. Enacting new laws specifying exactly what you can or cannot do are useless. Why not specify the same for every knob, switch and light in the car? radio, A/C, cigarette lighter, GPS or any of the multitude of new toys that keep getting added to cars?

Enacting new laws is USELESS because there already exist enough laws against 'distracted / dangerous driving' or such-like. What is needed is enforcement... except of course for parliamentarians it's easy to whack off a new law, instead of properly funding road patrols that can enforce the existing laws

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Flame

Re: cyclist's perspective

this morning I came across a cyclist...[implied "all"]Cyclists are just as bad

The Mail is over there, bigot --->

and don't get me started on the f*ckwits at night without lights.

Well, I agree with you there.

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Re: cyclist's perspective

@Larry F54

I'm not sure whether my phone records will say whether I answered my phone by a) dangerously reaching over to grab the mobile on the far side of the passenger seat then looked away to make sure I hit the answer key then held the phone to my ear, b) used my thumb to hit the conveniently positioned button on my steering wheel that will allow me to answer a call over the car's inbuilt sound system or c) answered the phone by using the voice controls on it and again used the inbuilt sound system.

a) is highly dangerous, b) and c) aren't. a) is illegal, b) and c) aren't. So unless there's some clever technology that allows differentiation of these via call records, I'm afraid your idea won't work

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@Da Weezil Re: cyclist's perspective

Yes, cyclists have to obey the rules of the road like everyone else, but if they do something stupid in the vast majority of cases it's only themselves they put in jeopardy, unlike those who use mobiles whilst driving.

So, please, stop trying to obfuscate the situatino or move the goal posts, let's concentrate on *this* issue, thank you.

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@Larry F54 - Re: cyclist's perspective

>> and don't get me started on the f*ckwits at night without lights.

> Well, I agree with you there.

Me too, especially all those drivers out there who are in control of unroadworthy vehicles.

To all drivers: A non-working headlight, rear light or brake light will cause your vehicle to fail its MOT test of roadworthiness, so try *checking* them every now and again!

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Re: cyclist's perspective

@Corinne

Items a, b, & c are all dangerous, although b and c aren't illegal yet.

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Re: cyclist's perspective

Right, cyclists are killing car drivers ALL THE TIME, they clearly need to be locked up.

I'm a car driver, not a cyclist, but for years I was a Motor Cyclist, and I couldn't help but notice that car drivers routinely believe that their behaviour is legal, and that the law matches their beheviour on the road.

I'm sorry, that is wrong. Car drivers routinely break the law in characteristic ways. And the solution (only when car drivers break the law) is to change the law. You don't notice that you are breaking the law, and uniformally the people I discuss this with socially are outraged at the suggestion that they are breaking the law. (Obviously, if I stopped people in traffic to discuss legalities they would be outraged, I don't do that).

By the way, you may have the idea that cyclists are causing their own deaths by ignoring the law. You would be wrong. With only tiny exceptions, cyclists are killed while obeying the law, not while breaking it. And the characteristic illegalities of cyclists (wrong way on one way streets, running read lights, etc) are known to make them safer on the road.

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Re: cyclist's perspective

"change the law so that after every collision, phone records are checked."

No need to change anything, that's how it works now. However, it's only done as part of a court case, along with the time it takes the court order to get through, and the telco to investigate and report by the time you get back to court with the data, it's been a fair while and fair few dollars later.

So while it CAN be done, they usually only bother for big deals, like when people have been killed.

They're certainly not going to go to court for some moron that's been talking at traffic lights.

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Re: "not be permitted to even touch their mobile phones while their car engine is running"

It seems that the law can't decide just how much degree of control is needed. You can be stationary, out of gear, with the handbrake on without the engine running and you're legal. Start the engine and you're breaking the law, even though you couild argue that you have exactly the same degree of being in control. In this case the law is a small horselike beat of burden.

It may of course fall into the "zero enforcement" zone, unless of course they decide to tag it on as an excuse. Police resources over here are stretched - they don't do "routine stops" any more other than to make their quota up for the week.

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FAIL

Re: almost impossible to enforce

Dunno where you're at, but in the San Francisco Bay Area, the Chippies seldom enforce the car pool lane rules... I have seen car after car with only one person in them driving in the car pool lane pass me while I observe the rules... Since I drive professionally, I can't afford to get a couple of tickets for a car pool lane violation, let alone afford the fine levied (up to $471, depending on which highway you're on). Occasionally, I try to keep track of how many illegal cars pass me... sometimes it's as high as 50%, usually at least 25%.

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Stop

Re: @Larry F54 - cyclist's perspective

"To all drivers: A non-working headlight, rear light or brake light will cause your vehicle to fail its MOT test of roadworthiness, so try *checking* them every now and again!

Wrong. It depends how many lights the vehicle has. For instance my car, by manufacturer design, has 4 tail lights, 2 in each rear cluster so a failure of 1 on either or both sides is not automatically an MOT fail.

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Insanity?

I don't agree that being an inconvenience to Sam Howell is sufficient for a law to be considered insane.

It does seem at first blush to be a little over the top though. Have they been having trouble prosecuting people who were obviously writing text messages, or using the loudspeaker but still holding the phone?

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Re: Insanity?

"...using the loudspeaker but still holding the phone?"

I don't know about down South, but it seems to be a favourite up here lately - holding the phone horizontal a foot or so from your mouth, talking loudly to make sure the microphone picks up their voice even though (if you're lucky) they have a set of earphone plugged into the phone.

So far, every one of those anti-social sods has been an iPhone user. Is this a fallout from You'reHoldingItWrong-gate?

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Megaphone

Re: Insanity?

"holding the phone horizontal a foot or so from your mouth, talking loudly to make sure the microphone picks up their voice

[...]

So far, every one of those anti-social sods has been an iPhone user. Is this a fallout from You'reHoldingItWrong-gate?"

I used to share an office with someone who did that - before the iPhone even existed.

It was annoying enough when sat in the office with him, but I eventually learnt to filter it out.

What was muchmore annoying, though was speaking to him on the phone.

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Can't see whats wrong

with getting people to put their phone in a holder, its not like they are saying you can't have your phone in the car with you, you just can't cuddle it, its not actually a teddy bear you know.

Many modern cars (ie not mine, the wife gets the new car) have built in bluetooth and you just use buttons on the steering wheel or dash board to drive the phone.

I still can't see why its more dangerous to talk, hands free, on the phone than it is to have screaming brats in the car with you. But you aren't ever going to see a road safety advert suggesting you do a Cameron, are you now?

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The number of times

I have been stuck at a set of lights for the second time because the dipshit in front was checking their text or email messages (so engrossed they don't even hear the horns going off in the background). Realised the green light at the last moment, they speed through on the orange leaving me behind fuming on another red light

If these laws are necessary so it gives those wankers pause so traffic can flow (well as well as can be expected during peak hour) so be it

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Flame

Re: The number of times

Oh god, don't get me started...

Whilst I've checked my phone at lights before, I'm damn sure to drop it before the opposing traffic even gets the red - because I know how fucking annoying it is when people do what you've described. To be fair, it also applies to people doing make-up, checking books/folders, reaching around behind them and talking to children, being incapable of judging that a "safe gap" doesn't require 200m of air in every direction, etc

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Joke

Re: The number of times

> so engrossed they don't even hear the horns going off in the background

A better trick is when they are second in line at the red light. Honk behind them while the light is still red, odds are they will drive into the back of the car in front before they've even looked up to see if the road is clear.

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Trollface

Re: The number of times

Even better is when you about 5 or further cars back - honk your horn as soon as the light turns green. Almost guaranteed they will look up see the green light and floor it.

Unfortunately I happened to be the car in front collected by the SUV a few years back. Still amazed I didn't roll forward into the car in front of me.

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Facepalm

Silly.

So if my phone was sitting on the passenger seat and it started to ring, it'd be illegal to pick it up and answer it whilst stationary in a traffic jam but perfectly legel to start rummaging around the glove box at 70 mph looking for my BT hands-free kit, find it, switch it on and then anser the call?

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Pirate

Re: Silly.

no.... but one of them clearly has a specific pre-defined penalty and the other one comes under some vague lack of care and attention with possible man-slaughter tacked on

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Re: Silly.

Exactly. So the Oz version of 'DWDCA' (Driving without due care and attention) should be perfectly acceptable to cover mobile use, with no new laws required.

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Bronze badge

Re: Silly.

Steve I - but prosecuting careless drivers under existing laws does not allow politicians to be seen doing something about this widespread menace killing billions of people each year!

Also, adding a new law gives journalists something to write about when it is added and six months later when it is subsequently thrown out after being tested in court....

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Re: Silly.

That would just be cynical manipulation of figures - so I'm sure it's true.

I'm also sure that when the Politicians report an enourmous increase in crimes detected and crimes solved, they're actually included the figures from speed cameras, as each ticket is a 'crime detected' and a 'crime solved'. I know I would if getting these figures increased was my responsibility.

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Re: Silly.

I'm not sure if it is still the case, but it used be that the penalties for driving under the influence were significantly higher than drink driving.

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Childcatcher

Re: Silly.

"but prosecuting careless drivers under existing laws does not allow politicians to be seen doing something about this widespread menace killing billions of people each year!"

In at least some states in the US, anti-phone usage laws have amounted to an ill-defined, unfunded mandate. The issue is not the phones, but the distracted drivers (phones don't kill people, people kill people) who will most likely find some other distraction to replace their phones should they be taken away.

Perhaps a better solution would be to create dedicated, isolated lanes reserved for people who prefer to talk, text, and otherwise act stupidly while behind the wheel. Charge a small fee to cover infrastructure costs and the inevitable need for increased emergency services and the government can turn a modest profit while saving the sane members of the population from the less prudent. The government could allow driving while imbibing in the same lanes, which would drive up revenues even more while simultaneously weeding out substantially more of those who like to drive and talk at the same time.

This would allow politicians to claim victory in as much as they have done something to address the problem du jour, poor drivers to enjoy the roadways with a minimum of hassle, and the rest of us to benefit from the increased safety afforded by the passage of such a law.

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Facepalm

Still silly.

It's just phones, is it? So I'd be allowed to mess with an iPod touch of somesuch device as much as I liked, even using Skype of something to make a call?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Still silly.

"It's just phones, is it?"

Not sure what the law in Oz is but in the UK its not just phones ... there have been reported cases of people being fined for taking a drink from a water bottle while driving - and I think in one case they were actually stationary at a traffic light. And, yes, its is against the law in the UK for a driver to use a (non-hands-free) phone while stuck in a traffic jam.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Still silly.

True, now if only this applied to police vehicles responding to radio chatter when only one officer is in the car. I was almost crashed into at a junction because this. I did follow the police car and had a few choice words with the officer, he offered to arrest me until I pointed out the the incident had been filmed. And whilst the captured images are not admissible in court I was sure that the news channels would be interested.

I let him go with a caution and uploaded the clip to YouTube (at time of writing the clip seems to of been taken down) but there are plenty more poor plod examples.

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WTF?

Really Mental Services

Apart from the obvious mentalness of :

-touching phone whilst stopped at lights = extremely dangerous

-touching phone whilst stopped with engine off = perfectly safe

I'll admit I've had a phone call whilst driving, and I've taken the phone out of my pocket to see who it is - if it's urgent, I'll pull over, if it can wait, I'll keep driving and call back when I get home (or, more likely, completely forget). The act of checking who it is is less distracting than changing the song on my mp3 player or trying to work out where the turn-off is in a GPS, or doing any of the multitude of the other things-that-people-do-but-aren't-explicitly-banned-yet.

Also - and this is a big example of how out of date our lawmakers are - what happens to people whose cars have start-stop technology? *technically* the engine is turned off, so touching their phone before turning off ignition switch is ok? but all others are obviously death on wheels?

Apparently the massive dangers of using these devices disappears when you're tasked with enforcing the laws instead of policing them - (I don't have a problem with police using data terminals whilst driving - obviously it's necessary - but I do have an issue with the double standards. Surely a dangerous act is a dangerous act regardless of the job description?)

Lastly, from the .PDF comes this little example of how clear the rule changes can be:

"Pedestrians or cyclists crossing roads at lights

If traffic lights change to yellow or red while a pedestrian or cyclist is crossing the road at the lights, they may continue to the far side of the road (as intended).

Penalty: $66"

So do they get a $66 penalty or are they free to continue to the other side?! Or are they now LOCKED IN to crossing the road, and any attempt to turn back or stop will result in a $66 fine? Obviously crossing with a little red man is illegal, but this isn't new - nor is it detailed in the pamphlet.

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Anonymous Coward

Does anyone here have a car which turns the engine off at the lights to save fuel?

problem solved!

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Anonymous Coward

Yes. It's another good example of how the law doesn't keep up with reality. However, I gather that UK plod considers that a car is under the control of the driver (ie being 'driven') if the keys are in the ignition.

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But that is also another example of how the law doesn't keep up with reality. Keyless ignition systems are now pretty common, or perhaps in this case the entire car is considered the ignition?

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JDX
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>>It's another good example of how the law doesn't keep up with reality.

No it's another example of people being dicks and wasting my taxes.

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>No it's another example of people being dicks and wasting my taxes.

Really? I thought that fining motorists be a source of income to the authorities, not an expenditure.

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Mushroom

Good.

Maybe this is the kick up the arse required to get 'em to make Android voice dialling work, as in:

"Call xxx on yyy."

<clear readback to confirm>

"Yes."

<dialling>

rather than the current:

"Call xxx on yyy"

<Picks random number from phonebook, delivers readback at inaudible volume for no apparent purpose and dials number.>

FFS Google. MS got this working damn near perfectly with their Voice Command product for WinMo a decade ago, despite the crap platform and sclerotic hardware at the time. What the hell's stopping you?

It's one of the few things about Android that really is worse than useless.

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Silver badge

Re: Good.

None of them ask for confirmation unless there are multiple "matches".

What I find irritating is that Siri is shit about half of the time that it's working at all, while the voice commands it replaces are quite good - and don't need a data connection.

Seriously - "call such-and-such" "Siri isn't available right now"

WTF Apple!!?

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JMB

Sounds similar to the UK legislation.

Before I retired the company wanted us to be contactable by mobile phone at all times but I refused to use when driving, I just diverted to voicemail when in the van. I would like to see a feature where the mobile phone automatically switched to divert to voicemail when placed in the mount in the car.

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Unhappy

You got to retire???

You're one of the lucky ones. Us youngers will be dead long before we hit our retirement ages. Not that our pensions will be worth jack shit anyway.

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