The West

The double demerit points system could be expanded.

The double demerit point system will be reviewed to determine if using a hand-held mobile phone, running a red light or other dangerous driving behaviour should also attract the higher penalties.

Police and Road Safety Minister Liza Harvey has asked the Road Safety Council for advice about whether other traffic offences should accrue double demerits, focusing on those linked to fatal and serious crashes.

It comes after the Police Commissioner suggested double demerits should apply to hand-held mobile phone use after officers issued 737 infringements for the offence in just over three weeks, including to a P-plater taking "selfies" and a mother who texted while driving 100km/h on the freeway with her young child.

Drivers caught using a mobile phone currently get a $250 fine and three demerit points. Double demerits started in 2002 and apply at long weekends and public holidays to speeding, drink and drug-driving, not wearing seatbelts or having children in proper restraints and riding in the back of utilities, trucks or panel vans.

The penalties are in place from midnight tonight for the Australia Day long weekend.

Four previous independent evaluations commissioned by the Road Safety Council have found the system improves road safety, with fewer crashes during double-demerits periods. In 2007 the Road Safety Council recommended against including mobile phone offences in double demerits after a review, Mrs Harvey said.

Mrs Harvey acknowledged there was community frustration around mobile phone use and believed it was time for a wider review of double demerits.

She wants to ensure any changes improve road safety because people who accrue 12 demerit points are banned from driving for three months.

Office of Road Safety research shows distracted drivers account for about one-third of all serious crashes and has attributed 15 to 20 per cent of the distractions to drivers using technology.

Police statistics showed red light and speeding offences increased from 2011 to 2012, although there has been a 60 per cent drop in fatal and serious crashes at 30 Perth intersections fitted with integrated red-light and speed cameras.

The West Australian

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