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Proposed Legal Action for Drivers on Mobile Phones

On September 21, 1983, Motorola made history when the FCC approved the 8000X, the world’s first commercial portable cell phone. Today there are more than 20 million mobile phone services in Australia. A decade and a half ago there were 635,000 mobile phones in Australia.1

The swift rise of the use of mobile phones has brought with it not only great economic impact but also risk-taking increases that result in fatalities. The increase in usage has happened so quickly that we’ve barely had the chance to research its impact.  What we do know is that it adds to distraction when driving, riding and walking, or any multi-tasking activity. When a driver is distracted, terrible accidents can occur. Some research suggests taking your eyes off the road for as little as two seconds can double the risk of an accident.2

Between 2012 and 2016 there were 113 drivers or motorbike riders involved in casualty crashes where mobile phone use was a factor…and that’s just crashes. Police figures show 2396 mobile phone infringements have been handed out to drivers since February 16, 2018 (that’s one month!). Last year 43,000 fines were handed out for the same behaviour.3

What Happened on February 16

February 16 is notable because that’s the day that two police officers were injured when a 22 year old man allegedly ploughed into them at a roadside breath test in Sydney’s southwest last month. The police officers were crushed between two cars resulting in one officer needing a leg amputation and the other breaking his leg. The young driver was allegedly looking at his phone for almost 20 seconds. Since the accident involved two police officers there was a community sense that such a strong message would make a difference in people’s behaviour. Sadly not.

Current Penalties and Proposed Action

Currently in Queensland the penalty is a $330 fine and four-demerit points. Is this enough? Are drivers deterred? Statistics would prove otherwise, and major action is being called for.

The Sunday Telegraph has launched the Use It, Lose It campaign to have drivers caught using mobile phones stripped of their licence.

Bicycle Queensland has called for the Queensland Government to introduce Presumed Liability Laws following new research that indicated 75 percent of drivers admit to using mobile phones.4 This would mean the fault of any accident between bicycles and car users is not required to be proved. The cyclist would automatically receive 100% compensation under what would not be called a no-fault scheme. 


Presumed Liability Laws may or may not speed up the process for compensation in the event of an accident, however, regardless it is not likely to be a deterrent. 

What will make people change their behaviour? It appears that people are aware of the potential dangers from distracted behaviour, and they’re also aware that there’s a hefty penalty. Any additional laws or restrictions would presumably have little effect according to this study that indicates only the overarching laws rather than individual rule changes deter criminal behaviour.5

Thankfully technology is bringing answers like the self-driving car, but how many fatalities and injuries will happen before real change helps us out? What do you think needs to happen?

Featured image by

Marlon Lara

  1. Mobile Telecommunications Come of Age in Australia
  2. Understanding the Law on Mobile Phone Usage in Your Car
  3. Horror RBT crash no deterrent for mobile phone users
  4. Deadly impact of driver distraction forces call for new laws
  5. Does Criminal Law Deter? A Behavioural Science Investigation

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