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How this everyday activity in the car could cost you $581

With our busy modern lives multi-tasking has become second nature to many of us, unfortunately for some this behaviour extends to when they are behind the wheel.

It can be all too tempting to have a quick snack or drink or even fix your make-up while on the road.

However, taking your eyes off the road to do another task can be particularly costly with the authorities clamping down hard on drivers not focused on the road.

More and more emphasis is being put on punishing distracted drivers and stricter penalties are always coming into force if someone isn’t paying attention. So how much could you stand to lose?

Woman driving with a coffee. Source: Getty Images
You could face heavy fines if you get distracted behind the wheel. Source: Getty Images (Getty Images/Westend61)

A need for control

When authorities catch out distracted drivers, they are assessing whether a driver is in control of their vehicle when they are caught.

This comes into play mainly thanks to Rule 297 of the Australian Road Rules with part 1 of the law stating that drivers must be in proper control of their vehicle at all times.

It means that drivers shouldn’t be distracted from the road by doing any other tasks and this covers anything from eating to tidying your hair whilst cruising to work.

A woman applies lipstick while looking in the rear view mirror of her car. Source: Getty Images
Fixing your lippy while driving could be seen as a distraction which could lead to heavy fines. Source: Getty Images (Getty Images/EyeEm)

It’s part of a wider ruling that ensures drivers are paying attention to the roads with the greater set of rules also punishing motorists for driving with animals on their laps or getting distracted by electronic aids.

A costly distraction

Understandably, distracted drivers pose a major risk to other motorists on the roads and police across Australia are ready to punish anyone who isn’t paying attention to those around them.

A woman eating burgers from a fast food chain while driving a car. Source: Getty Images
Many of us enjoy a snack when driving, but you could actually be fined for it. Source: Getty Images

These penalties come with some hefty fines and even potential demerit points in some areas of the country. Some of the potential penalties awaiting drivers include:

NSW: NSW drivers are punished heavily if they aren’t found to be in proper control of their vehicle. They have a hefty $464 fine and three points added to their licence. This increases even further if you are caught in a school zone with the fine increasing to $581 and four demerit points for your troubles.

VIC: Drivers in Victoria will not receive any demerit points if they are caught not in control of their vehicle, but they will still be issued with a $273 fine.

QLD: Queensland is particularly strict as eating or smoking behind the wheel is classified as driving without due care or attention. This offence comes with a minimum fine of $551 and three demerit points to your licence.

SA: Taking a lesser stance than their eastern neighbours, authorities in SA only penalise drivers with a combined fine of $293.

WA: Drivers in WA face a combination of penalties if they are not in control of their vehicle and have an obstructed view. Offending drivers get slapped with both a $100 fine and one demerit point.

TAS: If you are found to be driving without proper control of your vehicle, Tasmanian authorities will issue a $173 fine.

ACT: Officials in Canberra are eager to send a message to distracted drivers with a fine of $301 on the books for those found offending.

NT: Driving without proper control of your vehicle is classed as a general offence in the Northern Territory. This carries a minimum fine of one penalty unit, currently at $157 or it can be extended to 20 units – a fee of $3,140.

Knowing that there are substantial penalties on offer for driving whilst distracted, it might make you think twice before trying to do two things at once behind the wheel – no matter how trivial they might be.

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