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04 December 2017

Mobile Phone Use While Driving Costs West Aussie Millions in Fines

Last year, 26 people died as a result of distracted driving.

Mobile phone use while driving costs West Aussies millions in fines
by Kate Campbell, thewest.com.au, 3 December 2017

A record number of WA motorists are paying millions of dollars in fines for driving while texting, talking and using social media.

In the first six months of 2017, police issued 9017 mobile phone fines — a massive 37 per cent jump from the 6567 fines doled out in the same period the year before.

This is a rate of 50 drivers being caught red-handed every day, with cops increasingly perching themselves on freeway overpasses or riding in plain-clothes on motorbikes to catch sneaky motorists.

The crackdown on WA’s deadly mobile phone addiction has generated a total of $3.6 million in fines revenue. The number of fines issued has continued to rise since penalties for mobile phone offending were toughened in 2014, increased from a $250 fine to $400 and three demerit points.

The 17,404 mobile phone fines handed out in 2016-17 equated to an 18.5 per cent jump on the previous year.

Police figures obtained by The Sunday Times under freedom of information laws also reveal big rises in other traffic fines in the first half of 2017, including for seatbelt (up 36 per cent), red-light (up 65 per cent) and speeding (up 13 per cent) infringements.

Overall 884,298 traffic fines were issued in 2016-17, an increase of nearly 6 per cent from the previous year.

Police and Road Safety Minister Michelle Roberts said the “alarming” rate of mobile phone use behind the wheel made her angry and frustrated and she believed it was so high because offenders felt they were “invincible” and “smarter than everybody else”.

“I don’t think it’s a price-sensitive thing. People are thinking two things: one is they can get away with it and the other is that they’re not really hurting anyone else,” she said.

“The message from me is you really do run the risk of hurting someone else. It could be a cyclist, it could be a child.

“Ask yourself the question, ‘Do I want that on my conscience?’

“Mobile phone use while driving is a problem that is not going to go away. We will continue to up our efforts in education and enforcement.”

State Traffic Commander Scott Higgins said mobile phone use was a rising problem and he estimated 15 people would be needlessly killed on WA roads between now and the new year — four would likely be victims of distracted driving.

Unlike drink-driving in today’s climate, Cdr Higgins said many people foolishly considered using a phone behind the wheel was socially acceptable, even though they knew it was illegal.

“We’re concerned we’re going to see more crashes as more and more people are driving distracted. That’s a big worry for us. We’ve become complacent. As a society we expect people to die on the road ... it’s called a road toll, like it’s something we have to pay but we don’t have to.” he said.

Last year, 26 people died as a result of distracted driving.

RAC corporate affairs general manager Will Golsby said the attitude of drivers deeming mobile phone use behind the wheel acceptable was “hard to understand” and “increased enforcement is needed”.

“Reading a text while travelling at 100km/h on the freeway is the same as driving blindfolded for 138m, which is almost the length of the MCG,” he said.

https://thewest.com.au/news/wa/mobile-phone-use-while-driving-costs-west-aussies-millions-in-fines-ng-b88679205z

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