The Courier-Mail

Dou­ble de­merit crack­down on phone-us­ing driv­ers

- TOM SNOW­DON BRIT­TANY VONOW

THE driver be­hind the wheel was al­ready dead by the time po­lice ar­rived at the scene. At their feet lay a mo­bile phone, a half-typed text mes­sage on the screen.

The car, ly­ing in a crum­pled heap against a tree, was com­pletely de­stroyed. The driver likely died on im­pact.

This has be­come a fa­mil­iar scene for many po­lice who at­tend road traf­fic crashes. In­spec­tor Mark Hen­der­son can re­call sev­eral such in­ci­dents.

“We had one on the Sun­shine Coast Mo­tor­way a few years ago where a young woman had a headon col­li­sion while she was tex­ting,” he said. “Her phone was sit­ting in the car at the scene by her feet with a half-typed text mes­sage. It’s quite com­mon. It’s prob­a­bly more com­mon than the gen­eral public re­alise.”

It’s be­come so com­mon that Bris­bane foren­sic crash unit boss Se­nior Sergeant Si­mon Lamer­ton said most of­fi­cers now search for a mo­bile phone when they ar­rive at a traf­fic crash.

“It’s rou­tine for us to now look at the phones and go through them,” Sen-Sgt Lamer­ton said. “We have a ma­chine that al­lows us to look into the phones and down­load them.”

In a bid to stem crashes caused by driv­ers on mo­bile phones, Main Roads Min­is­ter Mark Bai­ley has an­nounced re­peat of­fend­ers will lose dou­ble de­merit points from to­day.

“Tha

t means a $353 fine and six de­merit points de­ducted,” Mr Bai­ley said.

How­ever, the min­is­ter con­firmed the fine will re­main the same whether it is a first or sec­ond of­fence.

“We didn’t dou­ble the fine be­cause we didn’t want this to be about rev­enue,” Mr Bai­ley said. “This is about chang­ing be­hav­iour.”

A re­port com­mis­sioned by the Depart­ment of Trans­port and Main Roads shows peo­ple need to

change be­hav­iours.

The study re­vealed 69 per cent of Queens­lan­ders con­fessed to “us­ing their mo­bile phone in the car at least oc­ca­sion­ally”.

Most of the use was found to be peo­ple tex­ting at traf­fic lights, with 45 per cent of re­spon­dents putting their hand up for the of­fence. Another 21 per cent ad­mit­ted to tex­ting while driv­ing, and they’re get­ting harder to catch.

The 2009-10 fi­nan­cial year net­ted the most of­fend­ers, ac­cord­ing to the gov­ern­ment fig­ures, with 29,210 mo­torists caught.

This has dropped al­most ev­ery year since to 23,671 peo­ple busted with their phone at the wheel last year. There were 17,870 peo­ple caught to last April.

Road polic­ing Act­ing As­sis­tant Com­mis­sioner Dale Poin­ton (inset) told The Courier-Mail mo­torists us­ing their mo­bile phone while driv­ing were get­ting “more cun­ning about how they go about it”.

“It could be that more peo­ple are tex­ting than ac­tu­ally talk­ing on their phones, so it’s harder to de­tect,” Mr Poin­ton said.

RACQ tech­ni­cal and safety pol­icy man­ager Steve Spald­ing said many mo­torists tried to hide their be­hav­iour by keep­ing the phone low, but “it’s glar­ingly ob­vi­ous” what they are do­ing.

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