FROM December 1, all P-plate drivers will be banned from any mobile phone use in their car as the state government pulls out all stops to try and cut the mounting road toll.
The ban includes using any function of a mobile phone while driving or riding, or when stationary but not parked. This includes phones in the hands-free mode, with the loudspeaker operating, using the GPS or sending text messages.
Previously the ban covered learners and drivers on red-Ps, but as of December 1, that will be extended to all P-platers
P-platers are disproportionately represented in fatal and serious injury crashes; statistically the risk of being killed or seriously injured for drivers in this demographic is eight times higher than an experienced driver.
Senior Sergeant Ben Macfarlane, Chifley Cluster Supervisor, Western Region, Highway Patrol, said essentially the new laws mean P-platers can’t even look at their phone.
He said the changes were directly aimed at reducing an increasing road toll, adding the use of mobile phones while driving was almost an “epidemic”.
Sen Sergeant Macfarlane said the danger with mobile phones was a lapse in concentration which can have catastrophic, and often fatal consequences.
“Driving at 100km an hour, you travel between 25 and 27 metres a second.
“If you’re not completely focused on the road, that can mean the difference between life and death.” Sen Sergeant Macfarlane said
He said drivers are also holding their phones in the laps and using them while driving.
Subsequently he said police are increasing their resources to tackle this issue, including increasing the use of solo cycles in the region.
He said there has also been a spike in line offences, where people have been drifting over either the centre line on the road or on the edge, something he put down to people using their phones and not paying attention.
This isn’t an attitude totally shared by some local young drivers, who feel that they are being unfairly targeted.
“We feel we are very educated on the matter having just gone for our licence.
“We think they are targeting the wrong demographic as we see mostly black (full) licence drivers on their mobiles and not even using hands free,” they said.
Lithgow Highway Patrol’s Sargent Glen Crawford gave some practical advice for local P-platers.
“Put it in your bag on do not disturb so you wont be tempted,”Mr Crawford said.
Peter Khoury, spokesperson for the NRMA said the motoring group also backed the changes – even if it meant P-platers could no longer use the GPS component in their phones.
He added there were other forms of GPS available, even if they come at a cost.