Following a horror run on Queensland roads, the state government is set to introduce a new penalty on drivers who use mobile phone devices behind the wheel.
Over 40 lives have been lost as a result of road crashes in Queensland in the past two months, sparking a fresh look at the current penalties for a range of driving offences.
The move for a hefty fine for the distracted driving offence comes ahead of a three-day Driver Distraction National Summit starting in Brisbane tomorrow.
Transport Minister Mark Bailey is determined to act on the growing menace of driver distraction that will see his proposal of a fine of up to $1000 and possibly loss of licence for a second offence imposed for the illegal and life endangering practice.
His get-tough approach is firmly backed by Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk.
“Doing nothing is not an option. Too many Queenslanders continue to die needlessly on our roads from senseless distraction,” the Premier said.
“Fatal crashes from mobile phone use just horrify me.
“The dreadful consequences of these needless tragedies impact everyone. Not only the victims but their families and friends are left devastated too.
“Looking at your phone while driving or sending a quick text behind the wheel is something sadly the majority of drivers will own up to having done.
“Everyone knows it’s dangerous but it’s too easy for people to do it.”
Crashes caused by people on their phones is one of the ‘Fatal Five’ – one of the top five causes of fatal road crashes.
Minister Bailey said research shows distracted driving is as dangerous as drunk driving.
“People are literally killing themselves and killing others because they can’t keep their hands off their phone,” Mr Bailey said.
Recently a young Sydney driver was killed in a horrific head-on crash after taking a snapchat of her passenger in the back seat.
In 2017 alone, 38 people were killed, and 1224 people hospitalised by distracted drivers on Queensland’s roads.
“Families and the wider community forever pay the price for that decision to check social media or read a text,” Mr Bailey said.
“It’s not worth it and I think our laws need to more clearly send that message.
“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.
“Governments across Australia introduced random breath testing, increased penalties, and slashed the legal blood alcohol limit.
“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.”
Mr Bailey said he believed a combination of better driver education, innovative tools that blocked the use of mobile devices by drivers and tougher penalties would also help to get the message through.
“I think increasing the value of the fine to $1000 for distracted driving and similar offences will deter this dangerous behaviour,” he said.
“We made a commitment to work with experts on road safety to influence new thinking and approaches to distracted driving and that’s what we’ve done.
“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.
“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.
“Time is overdue for us to get this right. All our lives depend on it.”
About 70 road safety and industry experts are set to participate in the Summit and everyone who is interested in contributing their ideas can do so by emailing: email@example.com.
The Driver Distraction National Summit will be held in Brisbane at the Howard Smith Wharves from 1-3 July.
Premier and Minister for Trade
The Honourable Annastacia Palaszczuk
Minister for Transport and Main Roads
The Honourable Mark Bailey