Join Date: May 2001
Location: Somewhere over the rainbow
Driving and using your mobile: lose three points
There's a new penalty for people whose urge for immediate communication is stronger than the ability to look for a break in traffic and pull over to the side of the road: three demerit points.
Announcing a string of tougher penalties for unsafe drivers, the Government yesterday introduced demerit points for people using their mobile phones while driving.
Adopting submissions from the Pedestrian Council of Australia, the Transport Minister, Carl Scully, nearly doubled the fine for driving while phoning to $220.
Telstra research shows one in three drivers make a call from behind the wheel at least once a week, while 49 per cent will answer the phone if it rings.
Nearly one in five will tap out an SMS message.
Despite 85 per cent of people in an NRMA survey believing mobile phone-using drivers were at high risk of a crash, and British studies showing their reaction times were worse than drink-drivers at 0.08, 42,000 NSW motorists have been caught in the past four years.
''Using a hand-held mobile phone is dangerous and unacceptable," said Mr Scully. ''That's why, from July 1, if you value your licence you won't be doing it any more."
The chairman of the Pedestrian Council of Australia, Harold Scruby, said demerit points were the most equitable way of penalising drivers breaking the law. ''They treat the rich and poor alike and assist in getting bad and dangerous drivers off our roads and changing their behaviour," he said.
Among other changes to take effect from July 1 are increased fines for approaching a pedestrian or children's crossing too quickly, not obeying a hand-held stop sign, or not stopping or giving way at crossings. Fines for those offences have been increased from $211 to $320.
Mr Scully said it has been illegal to drive with a mobile phone since 1989.
''Drivers using hand-held mobile phones have 30 per cent slower reaction times and miss more road safety signs than a driver with a blood alcohol level of 0.08," he said.
Drivers cannot use their mobiles while the vehicle is moving or stopped at lights. It is legal to make a call if the driver is parked, even if the engine is running, according to a spokeswoman for Mr Scully.
You know, somebody actually complimented me on my driving today. They left a little note on the windscreen. It said, 'Parking Fine.'So that was nice.