New partnership to tackle driver distraction


Almost a third of Kiwi drivers (32%) said they would text/message someone while driving* – and a new partnership between road safety agencies and the private sector aims to turn that figure around.

In a bid to pave the way for safer roads and to prevent car crashes caused by phone distractions, Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency has teamed up with 2degrees, Vodafone, Spark, Auckland Transport and New Zealand Police to help tackle the problem.

The partnership aims to remind drivers about the importance of remaining safe when behind the wheel and to encourage safer choices and better behaviour when using mobile phones. A variety of thought-provoking campaigns will take place over the next 12 months to educate the public on the legal use of mobile phones in cars, what the risks are, and the best options to stay safe.

The core group will include Waka Kotahi, Vodafone, 2degrees and Spark, while Auckland Transport and New Zealand Police will contribute to various campaigns.

“We know that it’s safest not to use a phone at all while driving. Unfortunately, the reality is that phone use by drivers is commonplace in New Zealand and this is a hard behaviour to shift. The partnership will help us to better understand driver behaviours and develop targeted initiatives aimed at raising awareness of the risks and to spread the word on the importance of driving undistracted,” says Waka Kotahi Senior Manager Road Safety, Fabian Marsh.

“We hope that by enlisting the support and collaboration of our partners, we will be able to tap into the mindsets of Kiwis all across the country encouraging people to think twice about using their phones behind the wheel.”

To launch the initiative, observational research will be conducted to assess real-life driving behaviours. The purpose of the study is to monitor how people are using their phones while in the car which will determine how the working group communicates with Kiwi drivers moving forward.

The observational research will go into market in July to assess how Kiwis really behave once in the car. Recruitment is already underway for the research which will be opt-in and remain anonymous. 

“By showcasing what people actually do in the car, we will have the insight to combat phone distraction with practical solutions. We’re looking forward to working with all of our partners to help tackle a real problem that affects New Zealand drivers every day,” Mr Marsh says.

With mobile phone use in cars a major contributor of driver distraction, Vodafone, Spark and 2degrees knew they had a role to play in helping to tackle this issue and make New Zealand roads safer.

Jason Paris, Chief Executive Officer, Vodafone says: “While smartphones are the digital Swiss army knives of our lives in so many ways, mobile phones can be a massive, and, sadly, too often a tragic distraction when we get behind the wheel.

“Last year we teamed up with the AA to highlight this important issue, now we are proud to be joining Waka Kotahi and our fellow telcos in a bid to encourage safer ways for Kiwis to remain connected while on the go.”

Mark Aue, Chief Executive Officer, 2degrees says: “This is about making our roads safer to drive on, and our country safer to travel in. People using phones while in the driver’s seat are distracted and are putting themselves and others at risk. This partnership matters and the team at 2degrees is 100% behind this work with Waka Kotahi to promote safe practises and deliver lasting behaviour change that will ultimately save lives.”

Jolie Hodson, Chief Executive Officer, Spark says: “We are really pleased to support this initiative and be part of encouraging meaningful change on this issue. While most kiwis know it is dangerous to drive and use their phone, many continue to do so, and therefore it is important that we get a better understanding of why this is and how we can change that behaviour.

“We’re looking forward to seeing the results of the research and working with Waka Kotahi, NZ Police, Auckland Transport and our industry peers to keep Kiwis safe on the roads.”

To support this initiative the working group has prepared a fact sheet outlining legal mobile phone use while driving. This information provides clarity on what is classed as illegal and legal mobile phone use in a car and the best options to keep drivers safe.

More information on the legal use of mobile phones(external link)

* Vodafone Consumer Insights research, 2020

Notes to editors:

Additional comments

Acting Superintendent Gini Welch, National Manager Road Policing, New Zealand Police: “Driving while distracted, especially using a cell phone, is one of the four main behaviours contributing to death and injury on our roads – and all drivers needs to start taking this more seriously.  When you are driving, things can change in a split second, so driver focus always need to be on the road – and distraction free.”

Bryan Sherritt, Executive General Manager of Safety, Auckland Transport: "We are really proud to be part of this working group – we know that driver distraction due to mobile phone usage in vehicles is a contributing factor in many crashes. Any measures that we can put in place to reduce this risk will mean less death and serious injury on our road network.”

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