Mobile phone offences have been included in the double-demerit penalty period for the first time in NSW this Christmas.
People caught texting or talking on a mobile phone while driving will face the loss of up to eight demerit points and a $319 fine from December 24 to January 3.
The standard penalty rate for mobile phone offences will also rise from three points to four from January 1.
The new legislation follows a successful $1.5 million Transport for NSW video campaign aimed at young offenders called Get Your Hand Off It, which started in 2013.
NSW Roads Minister Duncan Gay said fines had decreased from more than 52,000 to about 32,000, but it was still too many.
“Next year, when it jumps to four points, it’ll be eight points when you’re caught (during the double demerit period),” he told the ABC. “Now you might think this is a bit tough, I don’t give a damn. We’re deliberately making it tough.”
Roger Lee, 22, of Ryde, said he would never use a phone while driving after being in a car accident caused by texting.
“I don’t text and drive because my sister jokingly said she will nail my hands to the steering wheel if I do,” he said. “I was in the car with my grandfather while he was texting and driving and we were in an accident. The passenger from the other [car] had a neck injury from the accident.”
Victoria Cotman, 29, of Darlinghurst, told the Newsroom the new campaign was excellent and scary: “I don’t text and drive because with the smartphone you have to look at the screen which is dangerous.
“I use talk-to-text, so I say either to my Apple Watch or iPhone, ‘Hey Siri send a message to Mum’, and I can dictate the message and Siri will send it for me. [And] if I get a text message I can ask Siri to read it to me; that way I don’t have to look at my phone.”
Since the start of the online campaign in June 2013, the videos (example below) have attracted more than 645,000 views.
Crash data from 2010 to 2014 showed hand-held mobile phone use by drivers was identified as a contributing factor in 236 crashes. From July 2010 to June 2011, 52,680 fines were issued to drivers in NSW for using hand-held mobile phones; from July 2014 to June 2015 more than 35,300 fines were issued drivers. – The Newsroom Team
Top picture: screenshot from Get Your Hand Off It YouTube video.