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Cellphone ban to be rewritten to allow GPS use

Monday 28 Sep 2009 5:31p.m.

Cellphone ban to be rewritten to allow GPS use
By Charlotte Tonkin

An outcry from new generation cellphone users has persuaded the Government to allow drivers to use their phones as GPS navigation devices.

A strict reading of the law banning hand-held cellphones in cars would have seen them banned too - even if they were being used for directions.

Robert Dickey uses his phone every day to navigate through Auckland City. The navigation function was part of the reason he bought the phone.

"It's great," he says. "It shows you exactly where you're going. It's really convenient and easy to use and it's hardly a distraction at all."

He was outraged to learn poor drafting of new mobile phone legislation meant using it to find his way would be illegal, even if it was mounted on the dashboard just like satellite navigation devices designed specifically for cars.

"I just don't think it's a well thought out law. There's things they could do, if they could be more specific about it that would be good."

And that's exactly what Transport Minister Steven Joyce has had to do.

"Actually as a result of this publicity we've gone out and said to officials in the ministry, you might have to tweak this a bit," says Mr Joyce.

Such "tweaking" will mean drivers can use the devices, so long as they're hands free and touched infrequently.

"Having it on your dash telling you to turn left, right or whatever is no better or worse than another GPS unit, and it's not the intention of this rule to capture that activity," says Mr Joyce. "The intention is to stop people texting or emailing in any capacity in their vehicle."

Mr Joyce hopes the necessary amendments will be made by the time the law comes into effect.

So phone-using motorists can drive easier come November knowing they can still use the technology they paid for, and it's the legislation that will be getting lost.

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