PCA Recommends a simple solution to the ‘Use of Hand-Held Mobile Phones While Driving’ Epidemic


The Chairman of the PCA, Mr Harold Scruby, said today:  “The NSW Police Minister, the Hon John Watkins, called a Media Conference today to offer a ‘more of the same’ solution to the use of hand-held mobile phones while driving  ‘epidemic’.  In doing so he claimed that Police were booking nearly 50 motorists a day for using hand-held phones while driving.  That means, every day, for about every 300 serving police officers in NSW, one motorist is being booked for this lethal offence.  Of course what he didn’t say and what everyone knows, is that NSW Police are not booking at least 100,000 motorists a day who are seriously risking their own and all other road users’ lives and limbs.


“A British study has found (quote): ‘Talking on a mobile phone whilst driving is more dangerous than being just over the legal alcohol limit.  Tests by scientists at the Transport Research Laboratory UK, have indicated that driving behaviour is impaired more by using a mobile phone than by being just over the legal alcohol limit.  Reaction times were, on average, 30% slower when talking on a hand-held mobile phone compared to being just over the legal limit and nearly 50% slower than under normal driving conditions.’


“Yet the penalties in NSW and throughout Australia are an utter farce; the very reason that the law is so widely and openly flouted.


“Recognising that Police resources are scarce, the only solution is to make the penalties fit the crime.  The penalties for low range drink-driving include a mandatory court appearance, 3 months loss of licence and hefty fines exceeding $500.  It follows that the penalties for using mobile-phones while driving must therefore be similar and commensurate with the potential for harm.  We recommend:


1                     Increasing the monetary penalty from $226 to $500 while retaining the 3 Demerit Points

2                     On-the-spot confiscation of the phone to be disposed of at public auction with funds going towards additional enforcement.  Police already have the obligation to confiscate radar detecting devices and it could be argued they are far less dangerous than using mobile phones while driving

3                     Automatic 3 months loss of licence on second offence and subsequent offences and;

4                     Double demerit points for this offence during holiday periods.

Mr Scruby added:  “Of course politicians and civil libertarians will probably argue about the rights of these criminals (it must be a crime if it’s as dangerous as drink-driving) – but the vast majority of law-abiding motorists will be wanting to know why their rights and safety are compromised every day, hundreds of times a day, when they either enter a motor vehicle or cross the road.


“So we now have a clear choice: more of the same and watch this lethal behaviour increase along with the Road Toll, or acknowledge that Police resources will not cope with much more than a cursory 50 bookings a day and realise that the only intervention which will significantly reverse this lethal trend is to increase the penalties to a point where, even though the chances of being caught are low, the penalties make the risk prohibitive.”  Mr Scruby said.




Harold Scruby - Chairman/CEO – Pedestrian Council of Australia - Tel: (02) 9968-4555   (0418) 110-011

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