The $400 driving fine you want to avoid
PHONES have evolved a lot over the past few years, mostly for the betterment and convenience of users, but they can still pose a potent distraction for drivers on the road, says Gatton Police Station officer-in-charge, Senior Sergeant Rowland Browne.
“Smart phones seem to have a lot more features that involve less talk, but more attention to the screen,” he said.
With the rising inclusion of Bluetooth connectivity and hands-free technology in vehicles, mostly gone are the days of drivers being caught with one hand off the wheel, holding a phone to their ear.
“People are making traditional phone calls through Bluetooth, which is generally fine, assuming it’s a voice dial instruction, but it’s performing other phone functions that can be an issue,” Sgt Browne said.
“The problem is a lot of people aren’t making calls, they’re using their phone for other purposes. They might be looking at Facebook, or messaging, or whatever. The nature of phones has changed, and messaging is probably more dangerous than talking to a phone on your ear, because you’re looking away.”
Phone activities such as taking selfies or other photos, social networking, texting, games, or even just selecting music which may be playing through Bluetooth in the car, all have the potential to bring about deadly consequences for the driver, and other road users.
“Every second someone is looking at their phone is a second someone is not driving the car, and it only takes a fraction of a second for a crash to occur," Sgt Browne said.
“This can be a vehicle in front slowing, someone pulling on to the road, an unforeseen obstacle, etc.”
He said time was critical while driving, and even a split-second distraction could contribute to an accident.
“The reaction time to an event can be the difference between nothing, and a fatal crash,” he said.
“Looking away from driving delays reaction time.”
Sergeant Browne said drivers distracted by phones were an issue for all road users, not just police.
“Phone use has become more widespread in the last 20 years and the smart phones have changed this again, so it’s a growing concern, because of the growing time spent using these devices,” he said.
“There is nothing to suggest this problem is any better or worse in the Lockyer Valley than anywhere else, and I wouldn’t say it is a bigger or smaller concern than any of the other issues.”
He said phone usage often contributed to crashes in conjunction with other leading causes, such as speeding or fatigue.
“It is a regular feature of crashes,” he said.
“There are a lot of incidents in our records involving phones.”
He said being caught driving while distracted by a phone can carry a hefty fine.
“The standard traffic infringement notice for using a mobile device while driving is $400 and three demerit points,” he said.
Of course, the consequences can be even worse if the distracted driving leads to an accident.
“If a driver is involved in a crash, it could result in a court appearance and a different penalty, depending on the circumstances,” Sgt Brown said.