Drivers face $1000 fine for act 'as dangerous as drink driving'

Queensland drivers will face fines of more than $1000 if caught using their phones as roadside detection cameras are rolled out across the state.

More than 15,000 people were detected to be illegally using their phones during a six-month trial last year and $1033 fines will be issued from November onwards.

Had fines been active during the trial, drivers would have forked out a total of more than $15 million.

A woman uses a phone while driving.
Queenslanders will face $1000 fines if caught using their phones while driving. Source: Getty Images, file

The cameras will be active from the end of July and there will be a three-month grace period during which drivers will be warned if found doing the wrong thing.

"Research shows that if you're driving distracted with a mobile phone, then it's equivalent to driving at 0.07 to 0.1 blood alcohol in your system," Transport Minister Mark Bailey said on Thursday.

The cameras also detect drivers and front-seat passengers not wearing seat belts, which attracts a fine of just over $400.

"These detection cameras will be anywhere, anytime in any part of Queensland, we'll be moving them around regularly," Mr Bailey said.

No leniency for drivers using mobile phones

Police are hoping the steep fines will help break the connection between people and their mobiles so they're not tempted to pick them up every time they're at a red light.

"Think of the number of times you've been in traffic and the lights have gone green... and the vehicle immediately in front of you hasn't worked it out because they're on the phone," Queensland Police Assistant Commissioner Ben Marcus said.

He said he wasn't surprised about the number of people found on their phones during the trial.

Queensland Transport Minister Mark Bailey speaks to the media on the way into the Labor caucus meeting at Parliament House in Brisbane.
Queensland Transport Minister Mark Bailey said new detection cameras would be everywhere. Source: AAP

It takes motorcycle police "a minute or a minute and a half" to find a driver using their phone while on patrol, he said.

"You drive along a highway and the vehicle in front of you is weaving in the lane, there is a very good chance they're on the phone," he said.

There will be no leniency for excuses with police operating on the rule that if the phone is in contact with the driver, whether it be in their hand or on their lap, it's an offence.

The cameras work using an algorithm to detect anomalies which are then checked by police.

"People say it was an ice cream, it was a packet of cigarettes... the technology tells you it's a phone," Mr Marcus said.

Two-thirds of Queenslanders admit to using their mobile phones illegally while driving, and distraction contributes to almost 20 per cent of serious injuries and 12 per cent of deaths on the state's roads.

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