Two thirds of fines handed to drivers for using mobile phones at the wheel have been referred to a government’s debt collection agency since a sharp increase in the financial penalty was introduced.
From the start of February, the Queensland government raised the fine for driving while on a phone from $400 to $1,000 and made it four demerit points instead of three.
A total of 1569 of the 2,300 fines issued since then have been referred to the Queensland Treasury’s debt collection body State Penalties Enforcement Registry, the Courier Mail reported.
A total of 20,665 fines related to mobile phones are currently being dealt with by the body – worth around $7.8million.
Queensland’s Transport Minister Mark Bailey said no-one should think that putting off payment would somehow be a way to dodge the penalty.
‘Even if your fine is referred to SPER, you’ll still need to pay it eventually,” he said.
‘You also lose four demerit points, and another eight if you’re caught a second time in 12 months.
‘Those points cannot be deferred, and for most people will mean they will lose their license on a second offence.’
Mr Bailey said the sharp increase in the fine sent a message about the seriousness of the ‘reckless behaviour’.
‘If you or someone you love loses their life because of driver distraction, you cannot get that life back.
‘The message is simple: put down the phone.’
He said the measures were so effective that Western Australia had followed in Queensland’s footsteps and introduced the $1,000 fines.
Mr Bailey said the efficacy of the law was reflected in the fact that the number o Queenslanders killed due to driver distraction had dropped from 54 in 2019 to just two so far in 2020.
He added that last year 13,280 Queenslanders were caught using their phones while behind the wheel while only 2,300 people had been caught since the new penalties were introduced.
The increased penalties mean that learner drivers and P-platers could lose their licence from just one offence.
Cyclists are also fined $1,000 for using their phone while riding their bike but will not have any demerit points issued.
Anyone caught using their mobile phone within 12 months will be hit with another $1,000 fine with eight demerit points.