Cops call for tougher penalties
on drivers using mobile phones
POLICE say too many motorists are getting away with using mobile phones while driving and want tougher penalties including loss of licence for repeat offenders.
A New South Wales parliamentary hearing is examining the use of smartphones by motorists as part its inquiry into driver distraction.
Police traffic commander, Assistant Commissioner John Hartley, told the inquiry yesterday (Friday) that driver distraction is an increasing problem on the state’s roads, Sydney media report.
Mobile devices represent one of the main contributors to inattention, said Assistant Commission Hartley.
In a 24-hour operation held on Wednesday, more than 900 drivers were caught using their mobile phones while behind the wheel.
“If you extrapolate that out, 330,000 drivers per year would be caught if we concentrate on mobile phones every day of the week the whole year, which we can’t do,” Assistant Commissioner Hartley told MPs.
“We’re not catching anywhere near the number of people who are using mobile phones whilst driving.”
Assistant Commissioner Hartley says tougher penalties, especially for a second offence, could provide a deterrent.
“If you’re caught twice, and maybe lose your licence for a period of time, that would deter everyone,” he says.
The inquiry heard studies in the United States have found that using a hand-held phone while driving increases the risk of having an accident by 23 times.
Motorists are also using their phones to text, email and use social media, the inquiry heard.
The acting general manager of the Centre for Road Safety, Margaret Prendergast, says the new smartphones are not just devices to make and receive calls.
“You can do Facebook, you can do Twitter, you can watch a DVD . . . those functions are not legal whilst driving,” says Ms Prendergast.
The deputy director-general from Transport for NSW, Tim Reardon, has dismissed introducing a blanket ban on using mobiles while driving, saying hands-free devices are not a problem.