Car & Road Injuries

Leave the phone alone: Distracted driving, a growing problem

Peta Miller
Jul 26, 2021
min read
Women taking a phone call while driving

Driving while distracted has resulted in hundreds of Queensland fatalities over the past five years.

While generally used as a broad statement, distracted driving refers to any physical or mental activity that can change your capabilities as a driver, such as eating or drinking, touching the radio or Navman, even trying to break up the kids fighting in the backseat. But the biggest culprit that’s on the rise is texting, talking or scrolling social media on your mobile phone.

Despite the known risks of using a phone while driving, there are hundreds of drivers who break this law every day. In fact, the Department of Transport and Main Roads (TMR) reports that 70 per cent of Queenslanders admit to having used a phone while driving. During a six-month trial of fixed and portable cameras last year, more than 15,000 people were caught red-handed.

Given these shocking results, the technology designed to catch people using their phones will be rolled out in more locations as a permanent feature on our roads from today (Monday, July 26).

In this blog, we talk about the risks of distracted driving and share our tips for avoiding temptation to text when you’re on the road.

What are the chances of fatality when driving distracted?

Over the five-year period from 2015 to 2019, about 12 per cent of Queensland’s road death tolls were as a result of distracted or inattentive drivers. In 2020, it accounted for 8.3 per cent of road fatalities – a misleading figure given the total amount actually went up year on year. However, most road safety authorities believe these occurrences are massively under reported.

It’s often difficult to prove that distracted driving is the primary source of an accident as most people won’t admit it at the time (particularly if it involves phone usage). But statistics show there are on average 29 people killed and more than 1200 injured each year as a result of such behaviour.

It doesn’t matter how great you are at driving (or how great you think you are); it only takes a split second for things to go pear-shaped. For example, if you’re travelling at a speed of 80 km/h, in two seconds, you’ve travelled 44.44 metres. The average reaction time to an event is 1.8-seconds, but if you’re looking at your phone, your reaction time could double, or even triple.

When can I use my phone while in the car?

In Queensland, the law clearly states that it’s illegal to:

  • hold your phone in your hand;
  • write, send or read a text message;
  • turn your phone on or off;
  • operate any other function on your phone.

You can use your phone safely if it is completely hands-free and 100 per cent of your attention is to the road. This only applies to those on their P2 and open licences.

If you’re a P1 driver, you’re not allowed to touch your phone at all. In fact, P1 drivers have further restrictions that include inhibiting passengers using the loudspeaker function.

How much can I get fined for using my mobile phone while driving?

Distracted driving laws in Queensland have tightened after the increased number of fines and fatalities in recent years.

As of July 1 2021, you will cop a $1,033 fine and knock four demerit points off your licence if you’re caught; and learner drivers will get an immediate loss of licence. Cyclists can also be fined. And if you are caught a second time for the same offence, you will be fined an another thousand-bucks and lose another eight demerit points.

With the detection cameras being rolled out permanently, your chances of getting caught are much higher.

Tips to avoid becoming distracted while driving

We know that using your phone while driving might feel like a bad habit you can’t break, so here are our top tips to ensure your phone stays safely out of the way and you can focus on your driving.

  1. Turn on "Do not disturb whilst driving" on your phone

To remove distraction (or temptation), go into settings on your mobile device (before you get on the road) and hit ‘do not disturb whilst driving’.

  1. Be proactive

Organise music and your navigation system before you get on the roads.

  1. Look out for yourself and others

Staying alert and cautious of your surroundings and is crucial to your safety and others.

  1. Keep calm

Driving can be stressful. Let your mates in the passenger seats know when they’re annoying. Respond to poor driving in a passive manner and remain calm and alert at all times.

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