Distracted drivers face $1000 fines
Queensland motorists could soon cop some of the world's highest fines and lose their licences on a second offence in a bid to stamp out the horror run of deaths on Queensland roads, with 40 people killed in the past two months.
We can reveal Transport Minister Mark Bailey will push for the heftier fine - which would be among the world's highest - in a move that would see Queensland have the toughest laws in the country.
As well as the $1000 fine, which is more than double the current penalty of $400, the Minister will also consider taking away the licences of those caught a second time.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has backed the get-tough approach, insisting that doing nothing to address the growing menace of distracted drivers is not an option.
"Too many Queenslanders 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 so dangerous but it's too easy for people to do it."
Minister Bailey pointed to a similar crackdown on drunk drivers in the 1970s which led to a massive reduction in fatal road crashes.
The government is also understood to be watching technology being trialled in NSW that catches mobile phone drivers on roadside cameras.
"Governments across Australia introduced random breath testing, increased penalties, and slashed the legal blood alcohol limit," he said.
"While some complained at the time, these reforms saved thousands of lives, with the road toll falling from 638 in 1973 to 245 last year.
"We've seen a major cultural shift in our attitude to drunk driving and we need to have that conversation now about our obsession with screen time while driving."
The proposed $1000 fine would be almost triple the $337 penalty in NSW and more than double the $484 fine Victorian motorists cop.
Northern Territory drivers are only given a $250 fine, while the ACT has a special $577 fine for those motorists caught using their phones while messaging, on social media or accessing the internet.
The $1000 penalty would also bolster the Government's revenue haul, with a staggering 57,833 fines dished out to distracted drivers between 2015 and 2017.
The Government will move to introduce the new penalty before the busy Christmas period.
Distracted drivers were responsible for the deaths of 38 people on Queensland's roads in 2017 - up from 19 in 2013 - while another 1126 people were hospitalised.
Mr Bailey said families and the wider community paid 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," he said.
"I think increasing the value of the fine to $1000 for distracted driving and similar offences will deter this dangerous behaviour."
The issue is set to dominate discussions at a three-day Driver Distraction National Summit which will kick off in Brisbane on Monday.
Mr Bailey said he believed better driver education as well innovative technology that blocked the use of mobile devices by drivers would also help drive down the number of offences.
"We made a commitment to work with experts on road safety to influence new thinking and approaches to distracted driving and that's what we've done," he said.
"Over the past few months, our government has led a conversation with vehicle manufacturers, technology companies, insurers, telecommunications companies, academics, legal professionals and other stakeholders to discuss solutions to distracted driving."
Use of a mobile phone can include holding the device to or near the ear, writing, reading or sending a text message and operating any other function on the phone, like email or social media.
But drivers on an open and P2 licence can use mobile phone functions if the device is in a cradle or being used with a hands-free kit.