Texting behind the wheel.(Photo: Joe Attanasio)

“Selfish” drivers nabbed for texting at the wheel

A police crackdown on texting while driving has left hundreds of NSW motorists facing hefty fines.

In an operation last Wednesday (February 7), Traffic and Highway Patrol officers booked an alarming 1200 people for using their mobile phones while on the road.

Police say they specifically targeted dangerous driver behaviour across the state, in a bid to reduce the high number of mobile phone related accidents. It’s only mid-February, but already 49 people have died on the state’s roads. Investigations are likely to show a link to mobile phone use.

Highway Patrol Assistant Commissioner, Michael Corboy, branded drivers “selfish” for choosing to use their phones while driving.

[blockquote style=”1″]The greatest tragedy is that many deaths were avoidable if people took responsibility for their actions.[/blockquote]

“Despite the obvious dangers to drivers and innocent road users, the message not to text and drive is just not getting through,” he said.

Brooke’s Law

The maximum fine for texting and driving in NSW is $330. A price far too low according to Vicki Richardson, whose daughter Brooke died behind the wheel in 2012, while sending a text message.

Brooke Richardson (Photo: dont-txt-n-drive.com)

Ms Richardson wants the fines to be higher. She has launched the dont-txt-n-drive Foundation in the wake of Brooke’s death, to prevent families experiencing the same sort of tragedy.

“One achievement that still amazes us everyday is the newly implemented law in the state of Victoria that Ted Baillieu MP dubbed Brooke’s Law,” she said.

“This law states learner drivers, P1 or P2 drivers are not allowed to use a mobile phone in their car while driving under any circumstances and for those on a higher licence if they get caught with the phone not in handsfree mode, then they will face a loss of four demerit points and a $433 fine.”

According to a 2016 report conducted by DeloitteAustralians are among the biggest users of smartphones in the world – with ownership now estimated to be as much as 84 per cent.

A similar study published in the British Medical Journal found people are four times more likely to have a crash if they’re using their mobile phone while driving.

Government response

Police fined a total of 39,000 people in the last financial year, specifically for mobile phone use. Now the NSW Government is about to introduce new laws that include harsher punishments – as well as new cameras – to catch more offenders.

Roads Minister Melinda Pavey said a trial is about to begin that will see new cameras positioned on bridges, above motorways and in tunnels.

“Mobile phone distraction is a big problem and we are prepared to trial and look at technology to catch people doing the wrong thing,” she said.

Assistant Commissioner Corboy thinks drivers should be more appreciative of the current condition of roads.

[blockquote style=”1″]Now is the time for all drivers, riders, cyclists and pedestrians to reconsider their own behaviour on our roads, and not take what are perfect driving conditions today, for granted.[/blockquote]

NSW Police will continue to conduct regular compliance operations throughout the year to assess key risks and minimise future accidents. – Joe Attanasio