BALLARAT police have welcomed the Victorian government’s strict crackdown on using mobile phones while driving.
Transport Minister Terry Mulder yesterday unveiled sweeping changes to laws that will enable police to fine motorists $433 with a penalty of four demerit points if caught using mobile phones when driving.
The fine is an increase of $144 and an extra demerit point.
The new laws will come into effect on November 25 and come in the wake of an increase in the number of crashes caused by driver being distracted by mobile phones.
Ballarat Highway Patrol Senior Sergeant Pat Cleary said the harsh penalties would certainly make people think twice about using their phones behind the wheel.
He said there was often a perception that mobile phone use was not a serious offence, but not any more.
“The laws really do reflect the serious nature of the offence,” Senior Sergeant Cleary said.
“Mobile-phone use and inattention is causing more trauma on our roads. These laws will certainly make people think twice about picking up their phone while driving.”
Alarming figures show 88 per cent of young drivers admit to reading mobile phone messages while driving, while 77 per cent say they send text messages.
Mr Mulder said the safety message was simply not getting through to people and he wanted to make the offence as serious as drink-driving.
“We are making no apologies for this because we know that these acts can, and have, caused deaths and injury on our roads,” Mr Mulder said.
“The message clearly isn’t getting through, which is why we are making the fines and penalties even tougher.
“Young drivers are the most vulnerable road users and we know they face extra challenges because they have grown up with mobile phones, so we plan to take away the temptation to use them while driving, by introducing even stricter laws.”
As part of the new laws, there are also more widespread restrictions on probationary drivers.
No P-plate drivers are allowed to use hands-free or bluetooth mobile phones, a rule that previously only extended to probationary drivers in the first year of holding a licence.