Stringent new laws have been put into place in New South Wales, Australia, and Sydneysiders have to get used to them. These laws went into effect on 1 November 2012, and in the first eleven days of enforcement, police reported booking 780 drivers for illegal mobile use.
The new traffic laws are quite comprehensive, and drastically limit drivers’ use of mobile phones in vehicles. According to the new laws, drivers in moving or stationary (but not parked) vehicles may only use a mobile phone to make or receive a call or use the audio-playing function if the phone is in a fixed mounting cradle or does not need to be touched or manipulated in any way. Other mobile phone functions are prohibited altogether, including text and video messaging, and email. GPS use is allowed, but once again the phone must be in a fixed mounting cradle. In addition, the cradle must be placed in such a way that it will not distract the driver from the road. The only time that drivers may hold their phones is when they are passing the phone to a passenger. Presumably this is so that drivers without in-car mounting cradles can let passengers answer the phone.
While the new regulations may seem draconian on the surface, they are intended to curtail the potentially distracting effect of having a mobile phone in a vehicle. Any effort to save lives on the road, by reducing the possibility of accidents must surely be applauded. In this case, the law has finally been changed to keep up with reality, acknowledging that people have mobile phones, that people use them all the time, and working on the basis that there must be laws in place to control how they are used.
This is always a good sign, because it reflects a degree of maturity. The law is often the last thing to catch up with technology, and in the mean time, it is common sense, and courtesy that fill in the gaps. This is not a bad thing, certainly – a civil society where individuals curb their own excesses based on empathy, compassion and consideration for others is something we all desire. But where courtesy fails, or where the risk to life and limb is too high (as in this case) then perhaps it is best for the law to step in.
Legislators all over Asia are catching up with technology, creating and putting in place laws to protect consumer confidentiality and privacy, limiting the opportunities for spam communication, and otherwise taming the wild frontier that is the mobile space. As the Mobile Marketing Association, we have always advocated consumer rights, and our code of conduct and best practices reflect that. As marketers, we also have to keep up with consumer behaviour, because the most exciting and interesting thing about the mobile space is the various uses to which consumers are putting the technology, far in excess of anything that has been imagined so far.
It is possible for the law to lag behind technological developments, but for us to effectively serve consumers and provide them with what they need, marketers must keep their eye on the public and keep up to date.