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Mixed reaction from lawyers on iPod ruling

Debate about legislation banning the use of mobile devices while driving was sparked again yesterday following a judgement by Senior Magistrate Archibald Warner.

Mr Warner found 30-year-old Catherine Farnsworth guilty on Wednesday, of using an iPod while driving

Ms Farnsworth told Magistrates' Court that she didn't use her hands to operate the device while riding.

The actuary said she was otherwise riding in a perfectly legal manner and showed no signs of being distracted.

However Mr Warner said that because the legislation does not describe the word “use”, he was left to use the dictionary definition, which he described as very broad.

Under the broadest meaning, he argued that merely having a cell phone or iPod on your person while riding could be seen as an offence.

He found Ms Farnsworth guilty but encouraged her to take the matter to the Supreme Court.

Two lawyers yesterday expressed conflicting views about the legislation.

Charles Richardson said that be believed it wasn't aimed at preventing people from listening to music while operating a vehicle, but at preventing people from physically interacting with the devices while on the road.

“The word 'using' refers to accessing the functions of the device while driving, not listening to music,” Mr Richardson said.

“If the intent of the legislation was to prohibit the listening of an iPod, then it would also prevent you listening to the radio while driving. The problem is people accessing the functions of the device.”

Asked if he thought the legislation should be amended, he said: “I think they need to clarify what they meant by 'using'.”

Richard Horseman argued that while preventing people from physically interacting with entertainment devices may have been the main focus of the legislation, the use of headphones while driving can also prove distracting.

“Although it seems a little harsh, I think she was caught by the legislation and the magistrate's ruling was correct,” he said.

“In this case, I think they are trying to curb the practice of people twiddling with their phones or other devices with one hand, but I also think on the other hand that using headphones is also dangerous while driving. To have an ear piece in your ear while riding makes it hard to hear things like alarms.

“[The legislation] certainly could be cleared up, possibly by giving a definition of 'use' or adding 'using or listening'.”

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Published April 02, 2012 at 10:00 am (Updated April 02, 2012 at 10:08 am)

Mixed reaction from lawyers on iPod ruling

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