New fines could be put in place by the State Government.
New fines could be put in place by the State Government. Robyne Cuerel

How you can avoid a $1000 fine behind the wheel

A MACKAY road safety advocate believes new proposed penalties for distracted drivers is a step in the right direction.

Mackay Road Accident Action Group road safety co-ordinator Graeme Ransley believes distractions are one of the biggest threats on the road today.

The State Government has divided the region with talks of harsh new penalties for drivers caught using mobile devices behind the wheel, including a fine of up to $1000 and possible loss of licence for a second offence.

More than 40 lives have been lost as a result of road crashes in Queensland in the past two months, sparking a fresh look at the penalties for a range of driving offences.

Mr Ransley said while the death toll was high, it was severe injuries that were now causing the most damage.

"I think we are desperate for some sort of measures that will help. The stats are so high and ... something drastic must happen," he said.

"With fatality we know what the cost are; the economic cost and the emotional cost. Where as the injuries are costlier to society, especially when you have brain trauma or spinal injuries," he said.

The QuickSmarts Distractions report, released by the Department of Transport and Main Roads, noted using a mobile phone multiple times increases a driver's risk of having a serious crash by up to four times, and distractions in motor vehicles cause up to 25 fatalities each year.

Mr Ransley said RAAG had long understood the risk of distraction in motor vehicles and the group ran an education program in secondary schools to educate young people about the numerous distractions in a vehicle and the consequences.

"There doesn't seem to be recognition of the consequences. We know that upwards of 50 per cent of crashes are caused by distractions, and when I talk about injuries, I am talking about young people with serious injuries and their lives are never going to be the same," he said.

For RAAG, one of the most important issues facing the road safety debate is in education around distractions in vehicles.

"Adjusting music, having headphones in and or something as simple as looking at GPS at the wrong time and other technology in the car are causing distractions, and they need to know how to manage that," Mr Ransley said.

What do you think?

 

Peter Ward, Sarina
Peter Ward: I'm a little bit stumped on how they think they can justify $1000. There will be a lot of angry people, but I guess just don't be on your phone and you won't get caught. Kate Rasmussen

 

Denis Kay, East Mackay
Denis Kay: I don't think it will be very effective in stopping people using their phones, but I think it's a good idea because it might stop some accidents. Too many people do it. Kate Rasmussen

 

Chloe Benz, South Mackay
Chloe Benz: I feel like it won't really help but it might. Maybe some people will stop using their phones, but drivers are already taking the risk by using their phones before now. Kate Rasmussen

 

Noel Downman, South Mackay
Noel Downman: It's all got to do with how they police it, really. I think they will have trouble catching people out still. Good luck to them. Kate Rasmussen

 

Hapati Pihema, East Mackay
Hapati Pihema: No I don't reckon, phones are a part of everyday life, and maybe they need to find a different way to stop all the harm. Kate Rasmussen

Tips for staying focused on the roads:

  • Switch your phone to silent or flight mode as soon as you get behind the wheel.
  • Let everyone know you're driving 'phone‐free' and remove pressure to be in contact.
  • Phone home before you leave work and check if you need to pick something up on the way home.
  • If you're driving with passengers, designate a 'texter' so you can concentrate on driving.
  • Pull over and park safely before picking up your phone.