Tougher penalties for illegal use of mobile phones while driving will be discussed at a three-day Driver Distraction National Summit in Brisbane from Monday (1 July 2019).
According to Defense Attorney Patrick O’Keefe should the driver distraction be reviewed, motorists could get charged for mundane offenses such as looking at the GPS system, grooming, taking hands off the wheel, talking on the phone, texting or even changing radio stations.
If penalties are increased, there should be no complaints from motorcyclists.
Vulnerable motorcycle and scooter riders have long called for tougher penalties for distracted drivers.
They also have a unique perspective to see inside vehicle cabins where they have witnessed drivers not only talking on their phones, but updating their social media profiles and even taking selfies.
All state and territory governments will attend the summit which will also investigate a current NSW trial of roadside cameras that catch drivers on their phones.
Last September, NSW increased the penalty for illegally using a mobile phone while driving from four to five demerit points.
Now Queensland is believed to be considering increasing the penalty from $391 to $1000 and loss of licence for a second offence as in Canada.
Motorcycle Council of NSW Chairman Steve Pearce is also calling for mandatory licence suspension for mobile phone abuse.
“The growth of in-car displays is also a concern as they offer additional distraction to drivers in a road and traffic environment which is becoming busier and increasingly unforgiving,” he says.
Mobile phone penalties vary across the nation:
- NSW $337 fine and 5 demerit points (double demerit points apply on public holidays);
- Queensland $391 and 3 points;
- Victoria $476 and 4 points;
- Western Australia $400 and 3 points (double demerit points apply on public holidays);
- South Australia $308, plus $60 Victims of Crime levy, and 3 points;
- Tasmania $300 and 3 points;
- Northern Territory $250 and 3 points;
- ACT $386 and 3 points (double demerit points apply on public holidays).
Fines around the world
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.