People using mobile phones while driving will face increased fines and all P-platers will be banned from using communication devices while behind the wheel when new laws come into effect next month.By Darren Linton
Drivers will face higher fines and the loss of more demerit points for using mobile phones when new laws come into effect next month.
It’s been dubbed ‘‘Brooke’s Law’’ after Brooke Richardson, a 20-year-old who died on December 4 last year when her car hit a tree near Cobram.
Her mobile phone showed she was texting moments before the crash and it led to her mother Vicki Richardson to launch an awareness program called Don’t Txt-n-Drive.
Under sweeping changes to mobile phone rules for P-platers, a total ban on using mobile phones while driving will be extended.
Presently, P1 drivers on red P-plates are banned from using phones, but from November 25 the ban will apply to P2 drivers on green P-plates.
Victorian Roads Minister Terry Mulder yesterday said changes to the laws would be submitted to the Governor this week for approval.
Mr Mulder said from November 25 drivers caught using a mobile phone would face a $433 fine, up from $289, and the loss of four demerit points, up from three points.
‘‘These are some of the most significant changes to our road rules in years and reflect the growing problem of distraction, which has the potential to result in deaths and injuries on our roads,’’ Mr Mulder said.
‘‘The government is getting even tougher on mobile phone use because we know taking your eyes off the road for just two seconds to answer a call or read a text message can kill.’’
Mr Mulder said the aim was for using mobiles while driving to become as unacceptable as drink-driving is now.
‘‘We want parents to talk to young drivers about not starting the habit and we want people who do it now to stop,’’ he said.
‘‘We have all sat at the lights and seen people with their heads down, playing with their phones. We have to decide as a community that this is not on and make it as stupid as drink-driving.’’
The statistics tell a different story, with 70 per cent of young and middle-aged drivers reporting using a mobile phone some of the time while driving.
Also, 88 per cent of young drivers using mobile phones reported reading text messages and 77 per cent reported sending text messages.
‘‘The message clearly isn’t getting through, which is why we are making the fines and penalties even tougher,’’ Mr Mulder said.
‘‘Any driver caught using a mobile phone illegally risks accruing one-third of the 12 demerit point threshold for a single, stupid act. P-platers will risk hitting their five demerit point limit.’’
‘‘We are making no apologies for this because we know these acts can, and have, caused deaths and injury on our roads.’’
The P-plate ban included using a hands-free device while driving or when stationary at traffic lights.
‘‘By extending the mobile phone ban to all P-plate drivers, we are ensuring the most inexperienced drivers focus on the road during the crucial first four years of driving and reduce their crash risk,’’ Mr Mulder said.
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