Queensland drivers illegally using mobile devices behind the wheel will be targeted with the toughest penalties in Australia to increase road safety according to Minister for Transport and Main Roads, Mark Bailey.
Less than six months after flagging its crackdown on distracted drivers, the Palaszczuk Government has announced the strict new laws will be in place by early 2020.
Under the changes, drivers caught on their devices will be fined $1,000. Demerit points are also increasing from three to four.
If drivers are caught a second time within 12 months, double demerit points apply and they could lose their licence.
Bailey acknowledged the penalties were tough, but said they were necessary to get the life-saving road safety message through.
“Queensland now has the toughest penalties for distracted driving in Australia,” said Bailey.
“Queenslanders told us they wanted action on this issue.
“Drivers using their phones illegally behind the wheel will pay a high price, but that penalty falls well short of the costs and trauma our community carries for those killed or injured in crashes caused by inattentive drivers.
“A driver’s response time while texting is comparable to that of a driver with a blood alcohol reading of between 0.07 and 0.10.
“Like drink driving, drivers need to know that reaching for the phone to send a quick text or check social media when their eyes should be on the road is unacceptable.
“It’s a deadly habit that needs to stop.
“We’re getting close to that time of year when we start to have Christmas parties and take holidays where driving long distances might be involved.
“Put the phone in the glovebox or set it to Do Not Disturb so you’re not distracted by it.”
During 2018, 33 people died on Queensland roads because of crashes involving distracted or inattentive drivers or riders.
Over the same period, 1,358 people were hospitalised in crashes caused by distracted driving.
Due to difficulties investigators face in determining distraction as the cause of a crash, road safety researchers believe the true number of people being killed or injured in crashes caused by mobile phone use is under-reported.
New penalties for distracted driving in Queensland will come into effect on 1 February 2020.