In a bid to stamp out the horror run of deaths on Queensland roads, drivers caught using their mobile phones whilst behind the wheel could soon be hit with a whopping $1000 on-the-spot fine.
This hardline push from the Palaszczuk Government is a reaction to an alarming number of deaths on Queensland roads, with 40 people killed in the past two months.
The proposed $1000 fine dwarfs other state’s penalties, with NSW dishing out $337 fines, Victorian motorists copping $484 fines, and the ACT implementing $577 fine for motorists caught using their phone illegally.
Bicycle Network have strongly campaigned for a crackdown on distracted driving, and increased penalties was one of the recommendations made in our submission to the National Transport Commission.
However, we know that increasing fines alone do not change driver behaviour, with studies showing that increased enforcement and more severe consequences (such as loss of license) along with greater driver education are required to implement rapid, mass behaviour change.
The NSW Government is currently leading the way through legislation that allows for new camera technology to catch illegal mobile phone use behind the wheel – and it is understood Queensland is watching these trials closely. The
Victorian Police Assistant Commissioner Doug Fryer has also called for the necessary legal reforms that would allow police to use similar cameras to fine offending drivers in Victoria.
The Sunday Mail revealed that Minister Mark Baily will consider taking away the licenses of those caught using their mobile phone illegally for a second time.
The Minister cited the need to a similar crackdown on drink driving in the 1970s.
“Governments across Australia introduced random breath testing, increased penalties, and slashed the legal blood alcohol limit,” he said.
“While some complained at the time, these reforms saved thousands of lives, with the road toll falling from 638 in 1973 to 245 last year.
“We’ve seen a major cultural shift in our attitude to drunk driving and we need to have that conversation now about our obsession with screen time while driving.”
Illegal use of a mobile phone behind the wheel in Queensland includes holding the device to or near the ear, writing, reading or sending a text message or operating any other function on the phone, like email or social media.
Drivers on an open and P2 licence can use mobile phone functions if the device is in a cradle or being used with a hands-free kit.
Driver distraction more serious than you think
These changes in Queensland come as the National Transport Commission (NTC) release a consultation regulation impact statement (RIS) seeking feedback on technology-neutral options to regulate driver distraction.
According to an Australian Road Research Board (ARRB) review commissioned by the NTC, just a glance off the road for more than two seconds can increase the likelihood of being involved in an accident significantly - see infographic below from ARRB report.
NTC Chief Executive Officer Gillian Miles said that new technology-related distractions, outdated rules and a general lack of understanding from road users present significant challenges to tackling distracted driving in Australia.
"Drivers engage in non-driving activities every 96 seconds while behind the wheel. Distractions take our concentration off the road which means we may not have time to react to hazards," Dr Miles said.
‘We are proposing four options for consideration. The views of a broad range of stakeholders are crucial to guide any policy reform to deal with driver distraction."
Consultation on the NTC paper closes on 21 August 2019.
The NTC will then deliver a decision RIS for transport ministers’ consideration in May 2020.
For more information, see the NTC website.