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Get your hand off it

Get your hand off it

Queensland’s swelling road toll has caused a push for harsher penalties for drivers who ignore the law.

Whether it be texting, making calls, navigating using maps or switching songs on your favourite playlist – using your mobile phone while driving is illegal.

For some, it seems this simple road rule has been forgotten, and the ripple effect it has on drivers is alarming.

Queensland has experienced an increase in road deaths caused by drivers using their mobile phones while driving, with more than 40 fatalities over the past several months.

Following the terrible run on Queensland roads, the state government is making the push for harsher penalties.

Drivers found with a mobile phone in their hand being used for any reason while driving – including phone use when stopped at traffic lights or in congested traffic – could lose three demerit points and cop a $1000 fine.

Transport Minister Mark Bailey introduced the proposed changes at a three-day National Summiton Driver Distractionon July 1.

About 70 road safety experts and stakeholders participated in the Brisbane summit; including vehicle manufacturers, tech companies, and insurers and motoring lobbies.

The new penalty is more than double the current fine of $400 and would make it the toughest penalty in Australia. If drivers are caught using their mobile phone behind the wheel a second time, they could lose their licence on the spot.

The need for a higher penalty for negligent drivers was put into the spotlight in a joint press release between Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczukand Transport Minister Mark Bailey.

“People are literally killing themselves and killing others because they can’t keep their hands off their phones,” Minister Bailey said.

“Families and the wider community forever pay the price for that decision to check social media or read a text.

“It’s not worth it and I think our laws need to more clearly send that message.”

Premier Palaszczuk backed Minister Bailey’s tough approach to the issue and said: “doing nothing is not an option”.

“Too many Queenslander’s continue to die needlessly on our roads from senseless distraction,” she said.

“Looking at your phone while driving or sending a quick text behind the wheel is something sadly the majority of drivers will own up to having done…Everyone knows it’s dangerous but it’s too easy for people to do it.”

Crashes caused by drivers on their phones is one of the ‘Fatal Fives’, which include: distraction and inattention while driving, speeding, drink and drug driving, failure to wear a seatbelt and driving while fatigued.

Research shows distracted driving is as dangerous as drink driving.

According to a study conducted by the Queensland University of Technology, despite the dangers and the illegality of using your mobile phone while driving, approximately 25% of surveyed Queensland drivers reported using their hand-held mobile phones on a daily basis to answer or make calls, as well as read text messages.

The study also found by using a mobile phone while driving, irrespective of whether a hands-free kit is used, increases the risk of a crash.

Drivers all over the country have been urged to abide by the law and refrain from using their mobile phones while driving.

If for any reason there’s a need to use your mobile phone while behind the wheel, pull over and safely park your car with the handbrake on before you even think about reaching for your phone. It could save you from being slapped with a hefty fine and it could even save a life.

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