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Tough penalties for texting, Facebook use while driving come online

By Charlotte Harper - 31 August 2016 40

Shane Rattenbury, left, and Peter Frazer, right, discussing distracted driving.

While announcing new penalties in force in the ACT from tomorrow under which checking Facebook, texting or using an app while driving could cost you $511 and four demerit points, ACT Road Safety Minister Shane Rattenbury has described a near-miss he had while jogging on a Canberra road recently.

Mr Rattenbury said people who text or use Facebook or mobile apps while driving were not only putting themselves in danger, but placing other road users in danger too.

“From my own recent personal experience, just two weekends ago, I was out jogging and I crossed the road with a green pedestrian symbol to go, and a driver was using his mobile phone just drove straight through a red light, just as I went to cross the road,” Mr Rattenbury said.

“It was a personal lived example of the sort of dangers we are seeing on the road.”

Joining Mr Rattenbury at an event this morning to raise awareness of the new penalties was Peter Frazer, the founder of National Road Safety Week, whose daughter Sarah was killed by a distracted driver in 2013.

Mr Frazer said Australians’ obsession with connection was becoming a growing contributor to “completely avoidable carnage”.

“Just last week, Professor Rebecca Ivers noted that smart phone use is now so pervasive that ‘for many people driving or walking seems to be a distraction from their use of social media’,” Mr Frazer said.

“While it may be akin to an obsessive-compulsive disorder, use of your smart phone while driving always remains your choice. 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. Putting vulnerable lives at risk is simply intolerable and I am pleased that the Minister and ACT Government have drawn a line in the sand.

“By increasing fines and demerit points, coupled with targeted education and enforcement campaigns, the ACT has sent a clear message, especially to novice drivers; your distracted driving is dangerous driving! If you can’t control your unhealthy behaviour, you may be back to asking mum or dad for a lift.”

The new penalties are separate to the existing offence of talking on the phone which carries a $416 fine and three demerit points.

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.

Be honest, do you ever text, check Facebook or use an app on your phone while driving?

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Mr Rattenbury said the four demerit points for this offence would result in the loss of licence for provisional drivers who have not completed the Road Ready Course and increased their demerit point threshold to eight points.

“Your text or Facebook message can wait until you arrive safely at your destination. So be patient, stay safe and put your phone away until you get there,” he said.

About 90 per cent of traffic infringement notices issued for driver distraction in 2015 were for mobile phone offences, according to ACT Policing.

So far this year, police have issued 725 Traffic Infringement Notices and 313 Cautions for using mobile phones while driving making a total of 1038 drivers caught for using mobile phones while driving so far this year.

About 40 per cent of drivers issued with a Traffic Infringement Notice for using their mobile phone provided police with a reason. Of those, half said they used their phone to take or make a call. About half said they used it for something other than calling, such as GPS maps, music controls, checking the time, texting, emails and social media.

Pictured are ACT Road Safety Minister Shane Rattenbury, ACT Policing Traffic Operations Acting Station Sergeant Steve Booth and National Road Safety Week founder Peter Frazer.

What’s Your opinion?


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40 Responses to
Tough penalties for texting, Facebook use while driving come online
1
Laurel 4:07 pm
31 Aug 16
#

If the use of phone while driving was in fact such a dangerous thing, one would have expected an increase in deaths and accidents over the last years, especially as smartphones beacame more standerd. But we haven’t seen such an increase. Perhaps we should be looking at other reasons why the governors imply such extreme taxes upon the drivers.

They are looking to make money at our expense I think.

2
rommeldog56 5:11 pm
31 Aug 16
#

I just don’t get why u need to respond to a sms message right when u are driving. Is it really that important !

Seen a week back on Erindale Drive going up the hill towards Mugga Lane intersection. Young female P Plater in older blue Mazda 3. Went past me and I was doing the limit – 80kph.

Nothing unusual with that, except that she had coffee cup in her right hand which was resting on top of the steering wheel – not gripping it. Finger of her right hand was also (presumably) texting on a phone which was being held in her left hand, which was also resting on top of steering wheel. She didn’t seem to be looking at the road – just the phone screen. End result was she drifted into my lane as she sped past

Using mobiles in cars while driving is endemic now.

All these fines are great – but I really, really want to see much more police presence on the roads to detect.

3
gooterz 7:45 pm
31 Aug 16
#

Must have been on the phone cos they missed?

4
gooterz 8:55 pm
31 Aug 16
#

This all just reminds me of Kim John-Un, he has a bad experience and then the knee jerk reaction is to just ban something or put in massive fines.

There is so much poor driving in the act however the only things that get updated is things that Barr will see on his way to work. Must be why the southside is so poor off because he’s never there.

Name that fallacy:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anecdotal_evidence

5
Mordd 8:58 pm
31 Aug 16
#

I presume this doesn’t apply to using a vehicle camera app to record while you drive that involves no interaction with the phone while driving and is in a mount away from reach at all times.

6
bigred 9:01 pm
31 Aug 16
#

Didn’t I see something in the Crimes last week about actual infringement notices issued by police dropping? If that is correct, there is no need for new penalties being introduced because we don’t seem to have a problem. If we had a road safety problem surely it would be an issue raised by the hopefuls for the Assembly during the current single issue election campaign.

As a community, we have accepted that we will kill on average 10 people each year in traffic crashes. We also accept that on average more than 2 people will be hospitalised each day as a result of traffic crashes. It is all OK though because the costs are covered by compulsory third party insurance and road safety levies. We grizzle a bit about increases in those charges, but our leaders have not seen a need to introduce an economic reform in this area that might result in behaviour change: because it is just not needed.

We only recently have seen a road safety minister being appointed and this was only after a Productivity Commission Report made some claims about our performance in this area.

So tell me again, why are we introducing new penalties?

7
rommeldog56 9:58 pm
31 Aug 16
#

Laurel said :

Perhaps we should be looking at other reasons why the governors imply such extreme taxes upon the drivers. They are looking to make money at our expense I think.

You think ??? Had a look at your car rego fees lately ?? What about your Annual Rates Bill ?? The increased and new levies ?? And just about every other ACT Labor/Greens Gov’t charge. The ACT Labor/Greens Gov’t are milking ACT Ratepayers and voters dry. So, why wouldnt they introduce new or increased fines as well. Its only fair.

8
Mordd 10:25 pm
31 Aug 16
#

Just call it the Pokemon tax and be done with it, we all know what’s to blame for the resurgence in interest in people using a phone while driving, call a spade a spade.

9
dungfungus 8:29 am
01 Sep 16
#

A similar fine should be introduced for people who insist on using these devices in theatres.
Part of the problem is the theatre management policy of requesting that mobile phones be turned off or PUT INTO SILENT MODE as this does not stop people using them in visual mode which is what it is all about these days.
When was the last time you saw anybody actually talking on a mobile phone?
There is nothing worse than sitting a few rows behind these vandals who are totally oblivious to anything that isn’t on the screen in their hand.
Actually, they do sit up when I leave my seat and visit them with appropriate abuse.
I encourage everyone else who is annoyed by this issue to do the same.

10
Rollersk8r 10:32 am
01 Sep 16
#

I was pulled over for looking at my phone while stopped at the lights a while back, not fined. However you don’t have to look very hard to see dozens of people using phones while driving on any given trip…

11
Maya123 6:15 pm
01 Sep 16
#

Rollersk8r said :

I was pulled over for looking at my phone while stopped at the lights a while back, not fined. However you don’t have to look very hard to see dozens of people using phones while driving on any given trip…

I’ve also seen someone shooting up (injecting) while driving. I reported them, but I have no idea if this would have been followed up.

12
grunge_hippy 8:36 pm
01 Sep 16
#

I saw someone fully reading a novel on the parkway once. Propped up on the steering wheel, engrossed. idiot.

The number of people I notice on the way to work with their heads down is scary. I feel like leaning on the horn just to scare the s$#t out of them, but no doubt that would cause them to serve into me or others. Almost always young people.

13
dungfungus 8:54 pm
01 Sep 16
#

grunge_hippy said :

I saw someone fully reading a novel on the parkway once. Propped up on the steering wheel, engrossed. idiot.

The number of people I notice on the way to work with their heads down is scary. I feel like leaning on the horn just to scare the s$#t out of them, but no doubt that would cause them to serve into me or others. Almost always young people.

You mean it was a young person who could read?

Amazing.

14
wildturkeycanoe 8:21 am
02 Sep 16
#

It’s great we have these penalties but unless policed they are a waste of time. There needs to be a portal through which the public can send video footage to the police so that fines can be issued. I’m sure I could catch many more txters on the roads than a police car could, simply with my dash camera. But what can you do if the police don’t act on footage given to them? It isn’t like I’m going to go to the local police station every day to hand in a USB stick, there has to be an easier way. Crime stoppers isn’t exactly the correct method, so why not set up a page where you can dob in someone you captured doing the wrong thing?

15
dungfungus 10:36 am
02 Sep 16
#

wildturkeycanoe said :

It’s great we have these penalties but unless policed they are a waste of time. There needs to be a portal through which the public can send video footage to the police so that fines can be issued. I’m sure I could catch many more txters on the roads than a police car could, simply with my dash camera. But what can you do if the police don’t act on footage given to them? It isn’t like I’m going to go to the local police station every day to hand in a USB stick, there has to be an easier way. Crime stoppers isn’t exactly the correct method, so why not set up a page where you can dob in someone you captured doing the wrong thing?

Why can’t the police use drones at major intersections?

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