RACQ backs tough new penalties for mobile phone use

QUEENSLAND'S peak motoring body has thrown its full support behind steeper fines for phone-using drivers.

The State Government has announced the nation's toughest distracted driving laws with those caught on their mobiles to face $1000 fines.

RACQ Head of Technical and Safety Policy Steve Spalding welcomed the move saying the message on phones just wasn't sinking in.

RACQs Steve Spalding. Pic Annette Dew
RACQs Steve Spalding. Pic Annette Dew

"We always prefer to see good education and good enforcement and generally we push back on higher penalties," he said.

"Ordinarily education will change behaviour but for whatever reason … some people don't want to hear that message.

"In the absence of that, it is the blunt instrument of heavier penalties."

The new laws, that more than double the current penalty of $391 and include four demerit points, will be in effect from February 1.

To avoid fines motorists should never hold a phone while driving or even stationary, unless legally parked.

When it comes to hands-free technology, things can get a little more complicated.

Open and P2 licence holders can use a phone if it's hands-free but only if it doesn't affect their control of the vehicle.

"If the phone is in a cradle then you can touch it to make and take calls but recognise it is still a distraction" Mr Spalding said.

"So as far as is possible, switch the phone to do not disturb and certainly don't use it for any other interaction, social media, Facebook, gaming or anything like that."

Queensland Law Society president Bill Potts. Picture AAPImage/ David Clark
Queensland Law Society president Bill Potts. Picture AAPImage/ David Clark

Queensland Law Society President Bill Potts applauded the Government's intention but said it was only penalising "one aspect of the distraction".

"Ordinary people who are looking at it might say, well hang on, drivers are distracted by changing the radio station or talking to a passenger, or trying to look over their shoulder to make sure the kids aren't playing up," he said.

"It's a good intentioned law but the devil in these things is in the detail.

"Will it work, the answer is probably not."

Transport and Main Roads said a driver must always maintain proper control of the vehicle.

"Hands-free use of a mobile phone can still attract fines and demerit points if the driver isn't in proper control of the vehicle," a spokesman said.

 

 

 

GET OFF AND STAY OFF

 

 

● Driving while using a mobile phone held in your hand is illegal, even if you're stopped in traffic.

This means you can't:

■ Hold the phone near your ear with your hand

■ Write, send or read a text

■ Turn phones on or off

■ Operate any other function on your phone.

■ To use a phone that is held in your hand, a driver must be legally parked. No exceptions.

● Open and P2 licence-holders are allowed limited use of a mobile phone if it is hands-free. This includes Bluetooth or a cradle attached to the dash or windscreen that doesn't obscure view. This can include to accept calls, run a navigation function, or accept/finish a trip as a rideshare driver.

● However, hands-free use can still attract fines and demerit points if the driver isn't in proper control of the vehicle. Effectively, this means you can tap the screen to answer a call on Bluetooth, but you can't type out a text or scroll social media while the phone is in a cradle.

● Learner and P1 provisional licence-holders aged under 25 can not use any function on a mobile phone while driving. This includes
hands-free, wireless headsets, Bluetooth or the phone's loudspeaker function. Their passengers are also prohibited from using a mobile phone's loudspeaker function.