Easter blitz on car phone use

Warning: Easter blitz on mobile phone use by drivers. Picture: Bill Hatto/The West Australian

Police plan to throw the book at drivers caught using mobile phones over the Easter break - hitting them with as many infringements as possible that could result in some losing their licence under double demerits system.

Police Commissioner Karl O'Callaghan said Easter was the most dangerous weekend on WA roads and phones were a big contributor to the carnage.

Tougher action was needed because the message did not seem to be getting through.

In an opinion piece in _The West Australian _today, Mr O'Callaghan revealed he had asked his officers to look at all aspects of a driver's behaviour when pulling them over for using their phone.

And if multiple offences could be identified, then multiple charges should be laid.

"In many cases police attention is drawn to drivers using their mobiles because of some other driving behaviour, for example, not staying in lane, failing to keep left, following too close, failing to cancel indication, speeding, etc," Mr O'Callaghan said.

"They are . . . discrete offences for which infringements can be issued and demerit points incurred."

Talking or texting would incur six points under double demerits.

Not staying in a marked lane would carry another two, pushing drivers close to the 12-point limit.

Road Safety Council chairman Murray Lampard yesterday backed the tough stance.

"One of the most dangerous circumstances on our roads is the distance travelled by a distracted driver who is intent and focused on technology," Professor Lampard said. "Innocent people's lives are put at significant risk, often with fatal consequences."

Six people die on average on the State's roads every Easter.

In a 2010 survey, 54 per cent of WA drivers admitted reading text messages while driving and 46 per cent admitted taking calls.

A third of drivers admitted having done both. This weekend will be the first time mobile phone use has been included in the double-demerit system.

Brian and Maria O'Shea, who lost three children when a speeding and texting driver ploughed into their car during a European holiday, welcomed the additional penalties, which they hope will be a strong deterrent.

"You are not just ruining the lives of the people you kill, you're potentially ruining your own life - all for what, a smiley face," Mr O'Shea said.

Double demerits apply for Easter between Thursday and Monday and again between April 24 and 27 for the Anzac weekend.