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All too often we hear of tragic deaths, serious injuries and other terrible accidents due to driver inattention. In fact, “distraction” is a contributing factor in 22% of car accidents, resulting in an average of 25 people killed and 1235 seriously injured each year on QLD roads. It’s a shocking statistic, but many people still seem not to understand the dangers – especially with the use of mobile phones. More than 50% of Queenslanders admit to texting or browsing whilst behind the wheel, despite the evidence that doing so makes you four times more likely to be involved in a car accident.

In July 2023, the Queensland Government introduced tougher penalties for drivers illegally using a mobile phone in an effort to deter driver distraction.

While these tough laws will certainly bring about hot debate, distracted drivers are among the top four causes of road  accidents. So, what are the new laws, and what can you do to make sure you’re safe while driving and not tempted to use your phone?

Driving distracted is the same as driving drunk 

Senior Associate Allison Grimley is aware that the dangers of driving distracted are far more serious than most people realise. “If you’re driving distracted and looking at your phone, you won’t be able to react as quickly to what is happening around you. Driving distracted means your reaction time is comparable to driving with a blood alcohol reading of up to 0.107”.

Allison says that road injury clients coming to see her due to driver inattention are increasing, and believes she’s not alone when she sees drivers using their phones on a daily basis when travelling on our roads.

“I see drivers with their heads down whilst driving or stopped at traffic lights, distracted by their phones, or having a chat with their phone to their ear.”

“Unfortunately, most are either unconcerned about their behaviour and the impact it is likely to have on other road users, or simply hopeful that they won’t be another statistic.”

The new laws & the fine print

For all drivers, regardless of the licence you hold, it is illegal to:

  • hold your phone in your hand whilst driving
  • have your phone resting on any part of your body, including your lap, whilst driving

These rules apply even when you are stationary, such as at traffic lights. They can also apply if your phone is turned off.

If you have an open or P2 licence, you can still use your phone hands-free in a mobile phone cradle attached to the vehicle or via in-car Bluetooth, but you need to make sure that the phone does not obstruct your view, that you always have proper control of your vehicle and have 100% attention on the road.

The penalties for illegally using a mobile phone have increased to a $1,161.00 fine and four demerit points.

If you are caught again within 12 months from your first offence, you will be issued with another $1,161.00 fine and a further eight demerit points. 

Extra rules for learners, p-platers and their passengers

It is illegal for learners or P1 drivers under age 25 to use a phone in any way while driving, including using maps, Bluetooth or hand-free.

The penalties for a learner driver are also more severe.

In addition to the $1,161.00 fine and four demerit points, learner drivers will also lose their license after one mobile phone offence.

If you are a passenger in a car with a learner or P1 licence driver under 25, using a mobile phone on loudspeaker is also illegal as it will distract the driver.

As one of the highest risk groups for serious injury in a crash, Allison’s advice is simple.

“When you get in your car – put your phone away. It is not worth it. As an inexperienced driver, you must always focus 100% of your attention on the road.”

Ask yourself: can it wait?

In our digital world, we’ve convinced ourselves that responding to a text or Snapchat has to be immediate. The reality is simple: it can wait.

If you’re used to having your mobile phone around while driving, you will need to make it impossible to reach for it – which means changing your behaviour.

To make this easier, we recommend that you:

  • Set up your Bluetooth, maps and music before you go – unless you’re a learner or P1 driver, you can skip to the next step.
  • Tell your friends and family that you’re about to start driving, and you’ll respond when you reach your destination.
  • Put your phone on silent or do-not-disturb.
  • Stick your phone in your bag and put it on the floor of the backseat or in the glove box.

There are also several helpful functions on your phone that can help you keep your hands on the wheel. You can set up auto-responders to messages that alert people that you’re driving and cannot respond. You can also set it up so that your phone will only ring if it’s connected to Bluetooth or a hands-free accessory.

These laws are designed to keep everyone safe on the road, and the reality is that driver inattention causes serious injuries and death. Make sure you’re unplugged before you hit the road so that you, and those around you on the roads, arrive at your destinations safely.

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Our specialist road injury lawyers are experienced in a range of claims related to road accident injuries. If you've been hurt on the road, we can help you understand your options. 

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