As you pack up the car for a holiday this Christmas, remember you are 20 times more likely to crash if you text while driving. It’s a sobering statistic – and statistics are based on the experiences of ordinary people. This is why double demerits are being extended to using mobiles.
For the first time, the NSW Roads Minister, Duncan Gay, is doubling demerit points for drivers who use their phones. It starts during the Christmas period from December 24 to January 3. Though it sounds tough, as Minister Gay says:
“If I saved your life, I’ve done you a favour.”
The current penalty for using your phone while driving is three points. In early 2016, this will increase to four points. This means that next year, drivers could stand to lose eight demerit points if they use their phones while driving during the Christmas period.
Since drivers with a full licence start with 13 points, it wouldn’t take long to lose them all. Learners and P1 drivers start off with only four points and P2 drivers have seven, which means they stand to lose them much faster.
Get your hand off it
The NSW government’s campaign, Don’t Drive Blind, Get Your Hand Off It follows the original Get Your Hand Off It ad that got people talking in 2013.
It was a clever way of making a point: at 60 kilometres per hour, a driver travels 33 metres in the two seconds they take their eyes from the road to check their phone. Two seconds is not long.
The faster you travel, the further you go. At 100 kilometres per hour, you cover the length of an Olympic swimming pool in those two seconds. One high profile death – Sydney model Sarah Durazza – saw her crash into a tree only seconds after answering a call from her boyfriend.
It can be fatal
NSW Centre for Road Safety says there were 226 drivers involved in crashes where use of mobiles was a contributing factor, between 2009 and 2013. Six of these were in fatal crashes and 101 were in crashes that caused injuries.
Even though the number of fines issued for mobile phone use has fallen from 52,000 to 35,000, the government is concerned that the message is not getting through. 307 people have died unnecessarily on the road so far this year – 34 more than last year. The government is determined to bring this number down using demerit points.
Few of us know exactly how many demerit points we can lose for different offences. L-platers and P1 drivers, for example, can’t use a phone at all while behind the wheel. It also depends whether or not you are in a school zone. So see our simple table to be sure.
Demerit points for mobile phone use
Learner or P1 drivers
Using mobile while driving – 3 points
Using mobile while driving in school zone – 4 points
Drive using mobile when not permitted – 3 points
Drive using mobile when not permitted in school zone – 4 points
Remember too that demerit points are not the end of the story. If you text or ring someone while driving – and cause a collision – you may see an unwelcome increase in your CTP insurance. If you need to learn more about green slip prices – and what kind of information insurers use to calculate them – use our green slip calculator.