A Queensland man says he has been fined by police for drinking water behind the wheel on a hot 39-degree day.
Brock Harris, from Beaudesert, had finished a 12-hour day at work and without the aid of functioning air conditioning, he was using a 600ml plastic bottle of water to keep cool.
"I stopped and bought a bottle of water and as I was pulling into my street I was pulled over by the police and told it was illegal to drink anything while driving," he told ABC Radio Brisbane.
The police officer reportedly told him that he was not paying enough attention to the road and his surroundings.
"They told me it was classed as not paying due care and attention and hit me with $173 and one demerit point," the ABC reported.
"If it is against the law then I'll pay the fine, but it's not compassionate to fine someone on a 39-degree day [for trying to] stay hydrated,” he said.
"The policeman told me there was nothing I could do and he was just trying to do his job.”
Mr Harris said he had sought legal advice and was going to challenge the fine.
According to Queensland’s online demerit points page, the only infringement that comes under “Driver distraction” describes an incident when somebody is “Driving vehicle when image from television or visual display unit visible to the driver or likely to distract another driver”. It comes with a $177 fine and three demerit points.
Queensland Police Media told Yahoo News Australia they could not comment on the story because the stated fine did not match with the offence that was allegedly committed and said they were unable to identify the infringement in their system.
It also hasn’t been 39 degrees in Brisbane for some time.
A police spokesperson said there is a fine, typically applied retroactively after an accident, for “driving with undue care” that attracts a more substantial fine but reiterated the stated fine claimed by Mr Harris does not match the stated offence.
Police only concerned if ‘driver’s actions are causing risks’
Speaking to the ABC, Superintendent David Johnson, from the state’s Road Policing Command, said those driving without due care, including eating behind the wheel, could be committing an offence.
"There are many people who consume drinks while driving and do it safely in a safe manner," Supt Johnson said.
"For us to issue a fine we have to look at the circumstances to see if the driver's actions are causing risks to themselves or others.”
Drivers shouldn’t fret too much about getting dehydrated behind the wheel while trying to avoid doing anything wrong, however.
"If I saw someone drinking out of a bottle with a straw and they were staying in their lanes observing what was happening around them and had a quick drink and continued on that would be fine,” Supt Johnson said.
Queensland’s Department of Transport and Roads said it was unable to comment for this story, saying police were responsible for the administration of fines on the road.
However, the department pointed towards the state government’s Driver distraction page, which aims to educate the public about the perils of not keeping your eyes on the road.
“On average 25 people are killed and 1235 seriously injured each year on Queensland roads as a result of crashes where driver distraction played a part,” the page reads.
“However, the true extent to which distractions (including mobile phones) contribute to road crashes is likely to be higher because drivers may not admit to police they were distracted at the time of the crash.”
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