Retired cop Garry Church says mobile-phone-driving should be treated like drink-driving. Picture: Lachie Millard
Retired cop Garry Church says mobile-phone-driving should be treated like drink-driving. Picture: Lachie Millard

The driving offence that ‘should be criminal’

MOTORISTS caught using their phones should be disqualified from driving and charged with a criminal offence, a former police officer says.

In a push to shake up road rules, retired senior constable Garry Church said motorists on phones need to be treated like drink-drivers.

"Let them lose their licence for three months," Mr Church, the president of Road Trauma Services Queensland, told News Queensland.

"That will allow them to wake up."

Before he left the Queensland Police Service in 2013 Mr Church said he went to an increasing number of crashes where mobile phones were a contributing factor.

"The dangers of mobile phones became obvious in the mid-2000s, they became a very big problem," he said.

"Is going to be a long-term problem until something is done about it."

Seventeen deaths on Queensland roads in the past decade are attributable to motorists using mobile phones, according to the Department of Transport.

 

Retired cop Garry Church says mobile-phone-driving should be treated like drink-driving. Picture: Lachie Millard
Retired cop Garry Church says mobile-phone-driving should be treated like drink-driving. Picture: Lachie Millard

 

But the department says the figure is likely under reported because of the difficulty of verifying mobile phone use.

Figures show drivers copped 270,000 mobile phone fines between 2008 and 2017.

There were more than 6000 fines in the first five months of 2018.

Mr Church said mobile-phone-using motorists should be charged and put before a magistrate on dangerous operation of a motor vehicle.

"When you consider the fact when you are in an 100km/h area, you are 27.7m a second in a lane that is only 3.6m wide, over a distance of 100m, at that speed it only takes you about three seconds to cross on to the incorrect side of the road," he said.

"I think the current fine of $330 and three points is nowhere near adequate."

He said Bluetooth devices, which enabled hands-free phone use, were inexpensive.

"I cannot grasp people's attitude on the road with their mobile phones; I'd like to shove them up their arse," he said.

When asked if he would consider suggestions from Mr Church, Transport and Main Roads Minister Mark Bailey said the government was looking at "enforcement opportunities, new and emerging technology and relevant legislation".

"This includes reviewing our existing penalties - a $391 fine and three demerit points, or double demerit points for a repeat offence within 12 months," he said.

"Careless driving caused by illegal mobile phone usage can have devastating consequences, and we are committed to ensuring penalties reflect the serious risk and consequences of an offence."

He said mobile phone use was a leading cause of driver distraction-related crashes and was unfortunately a behaviour he believed many drivers would admit to.

The government was part of a national project involving technology companies, automotive manufacturers, telecommunications companies, mobile device manufacturers and insurance providers to develop new and innovative solutions.



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