Fine for 'deadly habit' behind the wheel to increase from today

Brooke Rolfe
News Reporter

Drivers are being warned they could lose their licence after just one offence from today if they are caught behind the wheel taking part in a “deadly habit”.

From February 1 the penalty in Queensland for illegally using a mobile phone while driving is increasing from a $400 fine and three demerit points to a $1000 fine and four demerit points.

Police said the dangerous act was comparable to that of a driver with a blood alcohol reading of between 0.07 and 0.10.

Increased penalties could see learners and P-platers losing their licence from just one offence, with double demerits also applying to all drivers for a second mobile phone offence within 12 months.

Fines for using a mobile phone while driving are set to increase in Queensland. Source: QLD Police

The second offence would cost another $1000 and eight points, which would see most people lose their licence.

Bike riders will also be fined $1000 for using a mobile phone while cycling, but won’t incur demerit points.

Police hope the changes would deter drivers from using their phones and help prevent deaths caused by being distracted behind the wheel.

The RACQ recommends drivers switch their phones to a 'do not disturb mode' every time they get in a car.

"It's simple – using your phone behind the wheel means you're putting yourself and others in danger and it's simply selfish,” the RACQ's Steve Spalding says.

‘It needs to stop’

Transport and Main Roads Minister Mark Bailey reminded drivers that sending a text or checking social media while driving was unacceptable.

A female driver shown using her phone while driving over a bridge. Source: QLD Police

"It's a deadly habit that needs to stop," he said.

Police warned the rules surrounding mobile phone use had not changed, simply the penalties had increased.

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 phone.

Learner and P1 provisional drivers under 25 are not allowed to use a hands-free, wireless headset or a phone's loudspeaker function.

In January Budget Direct asked 1000 Australian adults if they felt confident using a phone while driving, and 12 per cent answered “yes”.

A food delivery driver was caught sitting in traffic on his phone. Source: QLD Police

Of those, the 35 to 44 age bracket had the highest percentage of confidence, and overall men indicated they were more confident than women.

While more than 70 per cent said they did not use a phone while driving, 12.2 per cent of those who did said they used it while stopped at a traffic light and 11.3 per cent while changing a song.

The penalty for illegally using a mobile phone in NSW while driving is a fine of $344 and five demerit points, in Victoria it is a fine of $496 and four demerit points, $336 and three demerit points in Tasmania and $480 and three demerit points in the ACT.

In South Australia drivers can be stung $534 and three demerit points, $400 and three demerit points in Western Australia, and $500 and three demerit points in the Northern Territory.

This driver was pulled over after police spotted him on his phone. Source: QLD Police

With AAP

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