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Canberra drivers fined more than half a million dollars for using mobiles

By Glynis Quinlan - 1 June 2017 9

driver looking at phone

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.

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.

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9 Responses to
Canberra drivers fined more than half a million dollars for using mobiles
1
bigred 10:33 pm
01 Jun 17
#

A couple of points here to challenge the effectiveness of the response. Firstly, we keep on seeing drivers of all shapes and sizes using their phones while driving without any fear whenever we venture onto our roads. Secondly, if the response was effective, why is the Minister crowing that the numbers are steadily increasing? Shouldn’t he be crowing the numbers are decreasing?

2
Holden Caulfield 9:06 am
02 Jun 17
#

bigred said :

A couple of points here to challenge the effectiveness of the response. Firstly, we keep on seeing drivers of all shapes and sizes using their phones while driving without any fear whenever we venture onto our roads. Secondly, if the response was effective, why is the Minister crowing that the numbers are steadily increasing? Shouldn’t he be crowing the numbers are decreasing?

Yes, but…

If people using their phones while driving is so commonplace because they think they can get away with as you assert, then isn’t it better that more people are actually being caught? Over time this will (hopefully) lead to a decrease in offences, because motorists will learn it is not so easy to get away with using a phone while driving.

3
wildturkeycanoe 10:53 am
02 Jun 17
#

“Figures from ACT Policing show that 1,257 drivers using hand-held mobiles…”
I have never seen a non hand-held mobile device, have you? As for the figures, that makes roughly four a day being caught. With the lack of active police presence on our roads this figure reflects only a small proportion of those actually breaking the law. I can see more than four people using their phones on one trip to the shops and back, it is that prevalent. They are easy to spot, just look for the tell tale signs; drifting outside the lane markings, speed varying by +- 20km/h of the posted limit and the delay in responding to lights turning green. It isn’t hard but obviously the police are too busy doing something else to bother with enforcing road rules. In my daily driving around Canberra I am lucky to see one marked police car in an entire week. Weren’t they supposed to targeting intersection rules infringements this month? Yesterday I saw a motorcycle policeman drive straight past a car illegally stopping almost an entire car length beyond the marked stop line. They could not have possibly missed it, they were looking straight at it on approach to the intersection. Was it too minor an offence to bother with? Who knows, but this kind of thing happens all too frequently and is dangerous because it blocks line of sight for cars going through the slip lane adjacent, which is why the stop line is marked so far back. Why bother making monthly safety statements and not bothering to follow them up with action? I have sent images and video of all manner of traffic infringements to the police, but never hear if anything was done about them.

4
cea075 10:56 am
02 Jun 17
#

I would love to see a much more visible police presence looking out for mobile phone useage. Perhaps even something like they did in Perth:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9N1iw5Vdim8

5
fps_grandma 10:11 pm
02 Jun 17
#

You drive in a 90km/h zone and see a speed van up ahead and there’s no police or any other forms of law enforcement anywhere nearby, which one of these two situations will trigger a mobile speed van?

a) Driving on the right hand lane at 50km/h with a mobile phone in your hand while not wearing a seatbelt, having a BAC well over 0.05 and carrying more passengers than the car is designed to carry?

b) Driving at 106km/h?

6
Ian 9:38 am
03 Jun 17
#

From what I see driving around, it wouldn’t take much effort to be booking 1,257 phone using drivers a day.

7
bigred 7:17 pm
03 Jun 17
#

Holden Caulfield said :

bigred said :

A couple of points here to challenge the effectiveness of the response. Firstly, we keep on seeing drivers of all shapes and sizes using their phones while driving without any fear whenever we venture onto our roads. Secondly, if the response was effective, why is the Minister crowing that the numbers are steadily increasing? Shouldn’t he be crowing the numbers are decreasing?

Yes, but…

If people using their phones while driving is so commonplace because they think they can get away with as you assert, then isn’t it better that more people are actually being caught? Over time this will (hopefully) lead to a decrease in offences, because motorists will learn it is not so easy to get away with using a phone while driving.

Maybe, but the alternative view may be that the numbers go down again because the police are focussing on something different in subsequent month’s media releases. And I am sure it will not be fog light offences!

8
tim_c 10:05 am
09 Jun 17
#

bigred said :

Holden Caulfield said :

bigred said :

A couple of points here to challenge the effectiveness of the response. Firstly, we keep on seeing drivers of all shapes and sizes using their phones while driving without any fear whenever we venture onto our roads. Secondly, if the response was effective, why is the Minister crowing that the numbers are steadily increasing? Shouldn’t he be crowing the numbers are decreasing?

Yes, but…

If people using their phones while driving is so commonplace because they think they can get away with as you assert, then isn’t it better that more people are actually being caught? Over time this will (hopefully) lead to a decrease in offences, because motorists will learn it is not so easy to get away with using a phone while driving.

Maybe, but the alternative view may be that the numbers go down again because the police are focussing on something different in subsequent month’s media releases. And I am sure it will not be fog light offences!

That would seem to fit with what we observe – they’ll do month-long “blitz” on a particular type of offence (seemingly ignoring all the others), before moving onto something else next month (leaving motorists’ habit of phone usage unchanged). What about a 12-month blitz on all traffic offences, every year?

And while it might not be particularly dangerous for most cars to be driven with fog lights on (though some do cause significant glare), by now enforcing this (and many other “non-dangerous” rules (eg. parking on nature strips and footpaths, driving a vehicle while unroadworthy), the ACT Government is really saying that motorists don’t have to obey the road rules.

Studies have also shown that where people become comfortable breaking one law (eg. driving with their fog lights on all the time), the are more likely to be comfortable about breaking other laws (which may be more dangerous).

9
tim_c 10:11 am
09 Jun 17
#

Sorry, should have read: “…by NOT enforcing this…, the ACT Government is really saying that motorists don’t have to obey the road rules….”

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