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Is phone message finally getting through?

mobile phone demerits message

Motorists are starting to get the message about illegally using a mobile phone, according to a new survey, as Queensland introduces tougher penalties from 1 February 2020.

A three-day Driver Distraction National Summit in Brisbane last July called for tougher penalties, but so far Queensland is the only state to respond, lifting the fine from $400 and three demerit points to $1000 and four points.

In November 2019, Victorian Police Commissioner Graham Ashton said the threat of losing $496 and four demerit points was not enough to stop motorists inches state.

In 2018, NSW increased penalties to $337 and five demerit points with (double demerit on public holidays). They are also trialling special cameras that can detect illegal phone use in vehicles.

Western Australian penalties are $400 and 3 points and ACT $447 and 4 points (both also have double demerit points)South Australia $308, plus $60 Victims of Crime levy, and 3 points; Tasmania $300 and 3 points; and Northern Territory $250 and 3 points.

Riders in danger

Vulnerable motorcycle and scooter riders have long called for tougher penalties for distracted drivers.

Selfies new scourge of road deaths

They also have a unique perspective to see inside vehicle cabins where they have witnessed drivers not only talking on their phones, but texting a message, updating their social media profiles and even taking selfies.

Yet Queensland Police video of motorists being caught red handed includes one of a scooter rider texting while waiting at the lights.

Message in survey

A new survey from Budget Direct finds checking your phone while stopped at a traffic light and changing song on playlist are the most common illegal phone uses by motorists.

In its survey of 1001 Australian motorists (including 218 Queenslanders) it found:

  • Australians surveyed in 2020 (11.49%) feel less confident texting while driving, compared to 2018 (14.9%) 
  • Respondents aged 35-44 feel most confident behind the wheel (22.61%) compared to those aged 18-24 (10.43%)
  • On average across the country, most believe that Tougher Penalties (31.97%) is the most effective way to deter drivers from texting
  • However, this figure was the lowest for Queenslanders who also think this is the least effective measure (compared to increased awareness, mobile detection cameras, law enforcement and no measures). 

Research shows using a mobile phone while driving can be as risky as drink driving. A driver’s response time while texting on a phone is comparable to that of a driver with a blood alcohol reading of between 0.07 and 0.10.

Queensland penalties

The increased Queensland penalties mean that some licence holders, like learners and P-Platers, could lose their licence from just one offence.

Double demerit points will still apply to all drivers for a second mobile phone offence within 12 months. This is another $1000 fine and eight points and could cost most people their licence.

Bicycle riders will also be fined $1000, but no demerit points will be issued.

While the penalties are increasing, there are no changes to the current rules for mobile phone use while driving.

Read more about the Queensland rules for mobile phone use while driving.Selfies new scourge of road deaths Have your say on regulating driver distraction

Various rules

Rules of use vary across state boundaries.

For example, in NSW, Victoria and South Australia the cradle must be commercially produced if you’re using a GPS app, making a call or playing music.

However in Victoria and South Australia, learner and P1 drivers can’t operate phones at all.

Learner and provisional drivers are also restricted from using phones at all while driving in the Northern Territory.

Fines around the worldVietnam - double mobile phone penalties

Fines vary around the world from no fine in many Asian countries to thousands of dollars and licence suspensions in Canada.

New Zealand has an $80 fine which matches their low fines for speeding. Consequently 3.5% of Kiwi drivers use their phone while driving compared with about 1.5% in Australia.

Almost half (24) of American states have no hand-held phone ban. Some states only issue fines if the driver is in a school zone or committing some other traffic offence such as speeding. Arizona and Montana even allow drivers to text!

The toughest measures in the USA are in California. The state has a $US150 fine (about $A205) for the first offence and more than $US250 (about $A345) for a second violation and one point. If you’ve copped a fine, contact Attorney Patrick O’Keefe.

Canada has a distracted driving offence which attracts a $1000 fine and three demerit points. A second conviction could mean a fine of up to $2000 and a seven-day licence suspension. A third offence could mean a fine of up to $3000 and a 30-day suspension.

Fines in Europe vary from less than €50 (about $80) and one point in eastern Europe to €420 (about $A675) in the Netherlands and up to six points in the UK.Mobile Phones

  1. *Parts of Canada.

    Our country is definitely still figuring out what we’re doing with cell phones. My own province, for example, has tons of wealthy folks in it, and my province’s $360 fine means pretty much nothing to them. On top of that, we still don’t know where the line in the sand is for what is a ticketable offence or not. I got ticketed one time for passing my turned-off phone to my wife to get her to start it and connect it to the vehicle’s bluetooth, while we were stopped. When I went to court to argue the ticket, another individual had been ticketed for her phone simply existing in her cupholder, not being touched, interacted with or the screen active.

    Severity is great, but my own slice of Canada has a LOT of work to do to make our laws work.

  2. I’ve said it before but our nanny state and overly safe vehicles are making the road far more dangerous. People feel so cozy wrapped up in their cage that is starting to do most of the driving for them that playing with a phone doesn’t register as a dangerous activity.
    School zones are another bad example of dangerous nannying.
    Many school zones make sense but many just don’t instead of making it safer for the children it is more like putting a don’t touch label on a half open jar of funnel webs.

  3. I think the greatest deterrent for people to stop using their phone is to have it confiscated on the spot as well as a fine, but not necessarily a loss of points. A first offence should be a lose of phone for a week plus an increased fine, a second offence confiscation for two weeks and an increased fine while a third offence should be confiscation and destruction of the phone plus a fine. As id’s have to be produced to purchase a mobile phone offenders details need to be available so they can’t just go out and buy another phone, but actually have to suffer through the confiscation period. On the positive side Australia will have a reputation as the most backed-up nation in the world. And if you want to have a go at me about being a nanny state etc. please leave your contact details so I can put you in touch with two motor bike riders hit by drivers using their mobile phones, both of which have suffered permanent damage to their legs losing full use of them and no longer able to ride. I don’t care if you’re a mum going to pick up your kids or a judge on their way to court, no one is that important that others should be put at risk.

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