IF you’re caught even touching your mobile phone while driving from tomorrow – you’ll cop a $298 fine and lose demerit points to boot.
New, tougher laws come into effect that mean texting, video messaging, emailing, using the internet – or even just holding the phone – are illegal. Motorists will have to buy a cradle or hands-free device if they want to talk on a mobile while driving. The penalty for doing it is $298and the loss of three points – or if you’re in a school zone, it’s worth $397 and four points.
According to some police, when it comes to talking on the mobile while driving, northern drivers of all age groups are guilty – so breaking the habit could be hard.
Police officers and driving instructors say our motorists, from teens to the elderly, do it.
New England Highway Patrol police say no excuse will get by them when the rules come into effect.
Supervising Sergeant Dave Bramble says he has heard all the excuses when it comes to drivers using their phones.
“People will be coming towards us for hundreds of metres and not even see marked police cars,” he said.
Sergeant Bramble said it showed how much people lost their concentration while doing both tasks at the same time.
“People just say, ‘the phone rang and I answered’,” he said.
Sergeant Bramble said he was even aware of mobile phone use causing a number of serious crashes on local roads.
He doesn’t believe there is one group more notorious for committing the offence – such as teenagers versus adults – than others, but he admitted those driving around town and city areas do it more than those out on country roads.
“Everybody does it, not just teens or business people,” Sergeant Bramble said.
While novice drivers, learners and provisional (P1 and P2), are not allowed to use phones at all while driving, Wayne’s Driver Training instructor Wayne Thompson says he has still seen them do it.
“They’re not supposed to, but they do,” he said.
Mr Thompson teaches new drivers in Tamworth how to handle their vehicles and says they have enough things to worry about without the loss of concentration that comes from talking or texting on a mobile phone.
He said all age groups were guilty but most were in the 25- to 60-year-old bracket.
It wasn’t uncommon to see multi-tasking motorists texting away in one hand, with a drink in the other and using their knees to do the steering.
“It makes me wonder how they got their licences in the first place,” he said.