If you’re considering using your mobile phone while driving you may want to think again as Canberra motorists were fined $593,941 for doing exactly that in the 12 months to April this year.
Figures from ACT Policing show that 1,257 drivers using hand-held mobiles were caught in that period and fined a total of $522,912 – or $416 and four demerit points per driver.
Drivers using mobile phones for messaging or social networking were fined a total of $71,029 with 139 drivers each fined $511 and losing four demerit points.
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On top of this, 469 drivers were cautioned for using hand-held mobiles during this period and 36 were cautioned for messaging or social networking.
New penalties came into force last September for drivers caught texting, messaging or using an app. All of the recorded fines and cautions for this offence have occurred since this time, with January recording the highest number of fines at 24.
At this stage, roughly four times as many drivers are being fined for talking on phones as for social networking but the numbers appear to be slowly increasing.
ACT Minister for Road Safety Shane Rattenbury was joined at last year’s launch of the new offences by Peter Frazer, the founder of National Road Safety Week, whose daughter Sarah was killed by a distracted driver in 2013.
Mr Frazer was reported in The RiotACT at the time as saying that Australians’ obsession with connection was becoming a growing contributor to “completely avoidable carnage”.
“While it may be akin to an obsessive-compulsive disorder, use of your smart phone while driving always remains your choice,” he said at last year’s launch.
“While you may be willing to put your life at risk, this foolish and unnecessary behaviour may result in some innocent person being maimed or killed.”
ACT Government research has found that 13 per cent of ACT drivers admit to using a handheld mobile phone while driving – with four per cent of those drivers stating that they do this all the time.
Mr Rattenbury today warned Canberra drivers that, although it can be really tempting to check your phone or update social media while driving, it’s just the wrong time to do it.
“There will never be a message, tweet or Facebook update so urgent that it can’t wait until you’ve safely reached your destination,” he said.
“Accidents on our roads happen really quickly and the distraction of using your phone while driving creates serious risk. Other features of our vehicles, including GPS, the radio and in-car controls can also take our attention off the road and increase the risk of an accident.
“It is important to remember that fines don’t just apply for using your phone to make calls, but also for sending text messages, posting on social media and using other apps.
“We all have a shared responsibility to avoid these distractions while travelling on Canberra’s roads and keep our community safe.”
What do you think about using mobile phones while driving? Have you ever had any dangerous experiences? Let us know in the comments below.