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Tougher penalties for driver distraction

Cops mobile phone penalties day of action
Police patrol for mobile phone misuse

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.

Summit crackdown

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:Call to double driver phone penalties roundabouts distracted

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. Only today I saw a woman driving through the main street of Bangalow in a 4 wd behemoth with 2 kids and she had her phone up to her ear . Recently I saw 2 campervans driving on the Pacific Motorway near the Lennox Head turnoff and they were talking to each other on their mobiles !

    1 year suspension & impound the vehicle for 30 days , won’t get an argument from me .

  2. About time. Now we just need to get rid of states and have one governing body regarding licence, rego, and road rules.

  3. I’m sure I see far more than 1.5% of drivers using their phones on my daily commute. I wonder where this often repeated figure actually comes from.

    I also see general apathy towards mobile phone usage in general, probably because of the draconian enforcement at traffic lights where most people perceive the risk to be low. Perhaps combined with an overall distrust of enforcement after years and years and years of over-the-top speed enforcement that a large number of believe believe to be nothing more than revenue raising, and people just don’t trust the message any more.

    1. I think it must mean 1.5% of drivers at any one time are on their phone! I agree, from my observation the percentage should be much higher. I guess the figure must come from self-reporting in surveys etc where people lie.

  4. Give cops the right to simply smash their phone, and leave out all the other paperwork.

  5. I see someone with their heads down every trip I make. I think it should be treated the same as DUI (or whatever its called now) The level of distraction must be similar and the possible resultant carnage. Perhaps a real punishment might be the instant loss of the device for a week or 2….bet that would hurt!!
    The real stupid thing is it’s so cheap and easy to install bluetooth if you really must take that call. But a lot of dickheads are txting and facebooking.

  6. Apparently single biggest killer on Aust roads now is driver distraction (worse than alcohol, speeding etc). So yes increase in penalties warranted, should be on par with drink driving. Related is the proposed ban in Victorian schools next year on phones in the classroom / schoolyard; if this is effective could help in that the same kids may grow up not using phones when driving.

  7. Happy to have mobile phone use treated the same as high level drunk driving. A $1000 fine is a reasonable starting point.

  8. As mobile phone use has been equated to drink driving penalty should be the same, loss of licence and impounding vehicle

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