Drivers caught using a phone illegally in Queensland are liable for new eye-watering fines beginning this weekend.
From Saturday, those caught checking their social media, texting, making calls or unlawfully using their phone behind the wheel in any way will be fined $1000.
That is more than double the current fine of $400 as police look to stamp out the deadly habit.
For the first offence, drivers will receive four demerit points, meaning P-platers and learners could lose their licence.
Double demerit points apply for a second mobile phone offence within a year, as part of the state’s crackdown on distracted drivers.
The Royal Automobile Club of Queensland (RACQ) has thrown its full support behind the fine hike, saying drastic times call for drastic measures.
RACQ spokesperson Renee Smith said driver distraction was the fastest growing problem on the state’s roads.
“We believe in education over penalties, but the reality is we now need a harsh deterrent to change the behaviour of motorists who are risking lives every single day,” Ms Smith said in a statement Wednesday.
“Queenslanders are not only texting behind the wheel but using social media sites and functions such as FaceTime and it’s downright frightening and it must stop.”
“Research shows if you use your phone when driving you’re just as dangerous as a drunk driver and you’re four times more likely to be involved in a crash,” he said.
The RACQ recommends drivers switch their phones to a 'do not disturb mode' every time they get in a car.
New camera technology, which has already been rolled out in NSW, is also set to trialled in Queensland later this year. The cameras are specifically designed to catch drivers using mobile phones.
“These cameras are already being used in New South Wales and are showing promising results,” she said.
“It’s always been difficult to catch people out on their phones, but these new cameras will make it very tough for motorists doing the wrong thing to hide.
Transport and Main Roads Minister Mark Bailey reminded drivers that sending a text or checking social media while driving was unacceptable.
“It's a deadly habit that needs to stop,” he said.
Bicycle riders will also be fined $1000 under the new law, but no demerit points will be issued.
Drivers are not allowed to hold a phone in a hand next to or near their ear, write, send or read a text message, turn a phone on or off or operate any function on a mobile phone.
If a driver is using a phone for applications like Google Maps or music, it must be in a hands-free cradle.
However Learner and P1 provisional drivers under 25 are not allowed to use a hands-free, wireless headset or a phone's loudspeaker function.
Queensland police confirmed to Yahoo News Australia that there were no plans for police to change enforcement strategies as the fine increase comes into effect.
Mobile fines for Australian drivers
The new Queensland fine is the highest in the country. In NSW the fine for illegal mobile phone use is $344, or $457 if detected in a school zone, and comes with a five demerit point penalty.
Victoria’s fine is higher at $484 and the state has been considering increasing the penalty.
Before the Queensland government’s announcements, South Australia had the previous highest fine for mobile phone usage behind the wheel. The state’s fine is $554 and motorists will receive three demerit points.
The Northern Territory this year announced it will increase its fine from $250 to $500, while drivers will cop three demerit points.
In Western Australia, motorists will receive a fine of $400 and three demerit points. Offending Tasmanian drivers will be fined $336 and three demerit points.
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