Senior Constable Adam Hooper with a TruCam.
Senior Constable Adam Hooper with a TruCam.

How to avoid getting stung with $1000 driving fine

POLICE are warning drivers to keep their hands off their phones with the consequences potentially more severe than a $1000 fine.

Sergeant Paul Micallef from the Ipswich Road Policing Unit said the introduction of the hefty new punishment for using your phone while behind the wheel was due to the issue becoming a "substantial" problem on the roads.

About half a dozen people in Ipswich had been issued with the $1000 fine and lost four demerit points since the new laws became active on February 1.

Although the 16 fatal crashes in the Ipswich district in 2019 were higher than in 2018 (15) and 2017 (12), Sgt Micallef said the total number of traffic accidents last year were down on the number recorded in 2018.

"Certainly quite a few crashes are attributed (to drivers using mobile phones)," Sgt Micallef said.

"The hard part is actually proving they were on the phone. If they were on a phone call we can check that. If they were texting we can check that.

"If they were just using Facebook then that's a bit harder to prove.

"We've had a lot of people saying it's to do with revenue raising. It's not. They cause crashes. Anyone can see it distracts people."

The penalty even applies if you're stopped in traffic, riding a bicycle or even on a horse.

Double demerit points will apply for a second or subsequent mobile phone offence committed within 12 months.

Sgt Micallef said it was pretty simple: if it's not hands free then don't use it.

"Hands free means not loud speaker," he said.

"If it's in your hands and you're using it, then you'll get a ticket. Whether you're using it as a map, using it for voice or using it for anything, it's a mobile phone and it's in use."

You can still be fined if you're not in proper control of the vehicle, so don't text or scroll through social media even if you've got a hands free device.

Sgt Micallef said the unit had purchased new equipment for use for mobile phone detection and trialled it this week.

The mobile camera will be used around the district.

"No one was on the phone (during the trial)," he said.

"It was good. It was a win.

"We're probably pioneers for the use of cameras in the city with the Safe City Program.

"We do have a fairly good extensive camera network.

"At this stage we're not looking at using those cameras for enforcement."