WARNING: Police are on the lookout for drivers texting and driving. Pic. Brad Hunter
WARNING: Police are on the lookout for drivers texting and driving. Pic. Brad Hunter

Shocking texting and driving stats revealed

DALBY Road Policing Unit officer-in-charge sergeant Mark Woitowitz asks any driver he catches on their phone while driving if they can remember the last ten minutes of their journey while they were using their phone.

Alarmingly, most of the time, the answer is no.

Between 2018 and 2019, 3458 drivers in Southern Queensland were found on their phones while driving, and a similar issue is plaguing the southwest.

“It’s such a big distraction,” sergeant Woitowitz said.

“Even those of us that can use a phone on bluetooth and hands free, it’s still a big distraction taking that phone call and having that conversation.”

RACQ’s Lauren Ritchie said the dangers of distraction were well known and drivers were putting lives at risk by using their phone while driving.

“This data was recorded over a two-year period before tough new penalties were introduced on 1 February this year and is one of the reasons harsher fines were needed and the trial of mobile phone cameras was introduced,” Ms Ritchie said.

“The mobile phone cameras were due to be rolled out in April but delayed due to COVID-19, but now that the police have returned to regular enforcement, including mobile speed cameras and RBT operations, we believe it’s time the planned trial got under way.”

Sergeant Woitowitz said the excuses given by drivers caught on their phones do not indicate any urgent reason for them to be using the devices at the time.

“Most of the time they say it was the boss and they had to call them back, or they didn’t have time to pull over, or they were just checking a text,” he said.

“Nothing is urgent, they just hear the ping on their phone and it’s killing them to o know what the message was.”

Sergeant Woitowitz estimates he sees about five drivers every week between Dalby and Toowoomba on their phones, some taking texts or calls, and some posting on social media.

Speeding also remains a pertinent issue in the region, with police catching one driver speeding at 140km/hr on Cecil Plains Rd.

Her excuse was that she was late to work.

Ms Ritchie said alarmingly 576 Queensland motorists were also given double demerit points for two or more mobile phone offences within a 12-month period in 2018-2019.

“We’re hoping the risk of a hefty fine and losing four demerit points and your licence, coupled with the right enforcement from police, will change the behaviour of some motorists,” she said.

“We encourage every motorist to set their phone to Do Not Disturb before hitting the road and take responsibility for their actions beyond the wheel.”

The penalty for all drivers caught texting and driving is $1000 and four demerit points of their licence.

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