COULD it finally be that the simple message that mobile phones and driving don’t mix is finally sinking in – for more drivers, at least?
Figures from the NSW Office of State Revenue show the number of fines issued by Chifley Highway Patrol officers to drivers for using their phone while behind the wheel has dropped every year for the past four.
The number of fines peaked at a 12-month high of 269 in 2014-15 before falling to 208 in 2015-16, 137 in 2016-17 and 94 for the first 10 months of 2017-18.
It still beggars belief that after so many years of warnings, education and even technology advances that officers could still catch almost 100 drivers doing the wrong thing, but at least those numbers are heading in the right direction.
But what will it take to get that number to zero given the very obvious link between mobile phone usage and crashes?
Figures published in 2016 found that almost a third of car accidents in Sydney involved nose-to-tail incidents, with driver distraction the most common cause.
And what could possibly have been distracting the driver?
With smaller traffic volumes in Bathurst the numbers might not be quite as alarming, but we’ve all seen the same bad driver behaviour.
How many times have you sat patiently in your car waiting for the lights to change, only to discover the lead car continues to sit there unmoving, long after the lights have turned green, because they are reading or sending a text message or email?
Everyone knows it is wrong, but there remains a hard core group that believes nothing bad will happen to them.
Using a phone illegally while driving overtook not wearing a seatbelt as a leading cause of fatal crashes in NSW several years ago so even if the number of fines is falling, it’s time for a new approach to finally convince those last few slow learners to finally take their hand off it.
One suggestion has been a “use it and you’ll lose it” law that would see people caught using their mobile while driving have their phone seized by police for seven days.
Our mobile phones have become an extension of ourselves – they’re not only a means of communication but also a contact book, GPS, entertainment device … you name it, our phone does it.
The fear of losing their phone would be a far greater deterrent than a fine for most.
Maybe it’s worth a go.