From September, the penalty for using your mobile phone while driving is five demerits. During a holiday period of double demerits, it will be 10. There is no doubt the NSW government is serious about stopping the distraction caused by illegal phone use.
Illegal phone use
In a survey by Roads and Maritime Services, three quarters of people wanted tougher penalties for illegal phone use.
Many drivers may not know exactly what is illegal phone use:
- Learner, P1 and P2 licence holders cannot use mobiles at all while driving
- Fully licensed motorists can make or answer calls or listen to music only if it sits in a cradle, doesn’t block your view of the road and you don’t touch it, eg, use Bluetooth or voice activation
- You cannot text, email, take photos or use social media unless parked out of traffic.
During 2017, 42,000 drivers were fined $330 for using their mobiles while driving. A short trial in Melbourne recently observed 7% of drivers using phones illegally. This grossly underestimates the scale of the problem, as many people are still using their phones daily without being fined or involved in a crash.
Cameras are watching
The NSW parliament in May passed Road Transport Legislation Amendment (Road Safety) Act 2018 so cameras can be used to enforce mobile phone offences. These cameras are not yet switched on but the technology is not far away.
NSW is not only the first state in Australia but the first place in the world to pass this law.
Remember also, every demerit point makes your green slip more expensive.