In the midst of dramatic and tragic escalations in state road tolls in 2019, the Queensland government is set to table the most expensive deterrents in Australia for mobile phone use.
Queensland Transport Minister Mark Bailey (below) is proposing that fines for mobile phone use increase to $1000 for the first offence, up from $400. A second offence would result in licence cancellation.
“People are literally killing themselves and killing others because they can’t keep their hands off their phone,” Mr Bailey said.
“I think increasing the value of the fine to $1000 for distracted driving and similar offences will deter this dangerous behaviour.”
The fine increases will dwarf penalties for mobile phone use currently in force in other states. NSW drivers cop a $337 fine at present, along with a licence points deduction. Victorian drivers pay $484, while Western Australians who are caught using a mobile phone in their car face a $534 hip pocket hit.
The minister is unapologetic about the drastic increase, arguing that similarly severe penalty for drink driving changed the driving culture for the better.
“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.”
The drastic measures to curb mobile phone use in cars come after the deaths of 40 people in the last two months on Queensland roads, on the back of new data that shows 38 people were killed and 1224 people hospitalised by distracted drivers on Queensland’s roads in 2017.
Ninety-seven people have died so far on Queensland roads, which is actually a 13 percent improvement over the same period in 2018
Road tolls have actually gone the other way in other states. Victoria’s toll, for example, despite the advent of safer cars and better roads, stands at 153, the highest it has been at this point of the year this decade and a 53 percent jump over the same period in 2018.
NSW’s total of 186, meanwhile, is 10 percent higher than the same period in 2018, while Western Australia’s tally of 90 lives lost is 11 more than the same period last year.
Mr Bailey said that the Queensland state government has consulted with road safety experts to tackle the issue of distracted drivers.
“Over the past few months, our government has led a conversation with vehicle manufacturers, technology companies, insurers, telecommunications companies, academics, legal professionals and other stakeholders to discuss solutions to distracted driving,” he said.
He also acknowledged that the problem of distracted driving - which he likens to drink driving – is not isolated to Queensland.
“We have driven the national conversation and will host a Driver Distraction National Summit in Brisbane this week to finalise a plan we can push onto the national road safety agenda,” he confirmed.
“Time is overdue for us to get this right. All our lives depend on it.”