Fines to halt drivers' chat

The Sunday Telegraph

Sunday 12 May 2002

NEW rules penalising drivers three demerit points for using a hand-held mobile phone will have a big effect on driver behaviour, according to the Pedestrian Council of Australia's chairman.

Harold Scruby said demerit points were a more effective deterrent than fines because they penalised all drivers equally.
“When people start getting a few points on their licence, their behaviour starts changing,” he said.

“If you've got someone with nine points up, they're less likely to put a mobile to their ear because of the fear of losing their licence.”

The new penalties, including a fine increase from $118 to $220, will be the toughest in Australia, and Mr Scruby said he hoped other States and territories would follow suit.
The heavier penalties follow a Sunday Telegraph investigation in January that found motorists were flouting the law by using hand-held phones while driving.

Motorists were even sending text messages while behind the wheel, with a Telstra survey of 400 customers showing one in five sent messages and one-third made or received calls on their mobile handsets.

Experts told The Sunday Telegraph talking on the phone was more difficult than talking to a passenger, causing a cognitive overload that increased the chances of having a crash.