Fresh twist in $173 'drinking water' fine
Queensland Police have raised doubts about a motorist's claim that he was handed a $173 fine and one demerit point all because he took a sip of water while driving.
Brock Harris told ABC Radio Brisbane he was driving home to Beaudesert, about 70km from Brisbane, after a 12-hour work day when the incident occurred.
He claimed that he took a sip from a 600ml plastic bottle of water as he was turning onto his street, which is when the police officer pulled him over.
"As I was pulling into my street I was pulled over by the police and told it was illegal to drink anything while driving," he told ABC's Rebecca Levingston.
The officer reportedly told Mr Harris that the $173 fine and one demerit point was a result of him "not paying due care and attention".
"If it is against the law then I'll pay the fine, but it's not compassionate to fine someone on a 39-degree day (for trying to) stay hydrated," he said.
"The policeman told me there was nothing I could do and he was doing his job - but I am going to challenge the fine."
In a statement to media on Friday headlined "alleged water bottle infringement", Queensland Police appeared to throw cold water on the water bottle story.
"We are aware of commentary alleging a driver had being issued an infringement for drinking from a bottle of water," police said.
"To date, police have not been able to validate these claims. A senior officer from Road Policing Command will reach out to the person involved to review the matter. Anyone who may have information that may substantiate the claims is urged to come forward."
The statement added, "Distractions while driving can have serious consequences and attract significant penalties. Drivers should avoid distractions, including use of their mobile phone or responding to passengers and children in the vehicle where it diverts their attention away from the primary responsibility of ensuring a safe journey on our roads."
On Thursday, a Queensland Police spokesperson told news.com.au that fines were usually issued under these circumstances if the action causes the driver to not be in control of the vehicle.
This sentiment was reflected in Queensland Police Superintendent David Johnson's comments to the ABC, who said there were many drivers who consume drinks safely while on the road.
"For us to issue a fine we have to look at the circumstances to see if the driver's actions are causing risks to themselves or others," he said.
"Driving without due care and attention was once put before court, but these days it's a traffic infringement notice that is issued."
Supt Johnson also noted that the fine amount did not correlate with the offence Mr Harris claimed he was told he committed.
According to the Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads website, driving without due care and attention carries a $533 fine and three demerit points.
A Transport and Main Roads spokesperson also told news.com.au that the on-the-spot fine for a driver not having proper control of a vehicle is $311.
"We all have a role to play in road safety," they said.
"Distracted drivers are a danger not only to themselves and their passengers, but to other road users as well. It only takes a split second to lose your concentration."
Eating and drinking behind the wheel is something most drivers have probably done and some have been fined - like this woman who was caught eating a bowl of cereal during her morning commute.
Last year a P-plater was snapped digging into a bowl of cereal on a busy Perth road.
The photo showed the teen holding the bowl in one hand and a spoon in the other while appearing to be steering with her knees.
Police said the woman was fined $300 and accrued three demerit points for driving "without due care and attention".
"While the Queensland Road Rules do not specifically prohibit eating or drinking (excluding alcohol) while driving a vehicle, the rules require that drivers maintain proper control of the vehicle," the Department of Transport and Main Roads spokesperson said.
"Drivers must also drive with care and attention to the driving task at all times.
"While we are responsible for the administration of the road rules, enforcement of the laws is the responsibility of the Queensland Police Service. Whether an offence has been committed by a driver eating or drinking would be determined by an intercepting police officer, considering the relevant circumstances."
Supt Johnson said drivers need to constantly pay attention to the road and if they are eating or drinking in a way that puts others in danger then it becomes an issue.