Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Police call for mobile phone switch off by motorists Herald Sun


Victoria's top highway patrol cop's call to ban 

mobile phones from cars


Victoria Police
Police booked 55,222 drivers for using their mobile phones last year. Source: Herald Sun
VICTORIA'S top highway patrol cop wants new laws to force drivers to switch off mobile phones, as thousands of rogue motorists flout the law.
Inspector David Griffin flagged the proposal as new figures emerged showing 55,222 drivers - an average of 151 a day - were booked for using their mobile phones last year.
Insp Griffin said this total included a growing number of first-year P-plate and learner drivers.
The call, revealed today by the Herald Sun, has sparked a fierce debate among readers (scroll below for responses, and to add yours) and prompted Transport Minister Terry Mulder to question the proposal.
While a live online poll asking 'Should it be illegal to have mobile phones turned on in cars?' is overwhelmingly against the idea, with 80 per cent of 2500 respondents saying 'No'.
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Insp Griffin, who heads the specialised traffic unit the State Highway Patrol, said police were frustrated.
He said he would raise with Assistant Commissioner for road policing Robert Hill the idea of making it an offence to have a mobile phone switched on inside a vehicle.
"It's already an offence to use a mobile phone while driving a car. If it's already illegal, what does it matter (if your phone is switched off)?" Insp Griffin said.
"We would prefer there be no telephones in cars. That would certainly help towards reducing the road toll.
"Driver distraction is a significant cause of road crashes and road trauma," he said. "If you take away that distraction, it can only be a good thing."
Mr Mulder questioned Insp Griffin's proposal, saying banning mobile phones in cars could create more danger on the roads.
"Given that the fact people are so well socially connected these days, I just wonder whether you create a situation whereby you have people pulling off to the side of the road, turning their car off, getting on a phone and pulling back on again," he told 3AW today.
"Would that create a more dangerous situation than what we're dealing with at the moment?"
Mr Mulder said the Ministerial Council for Road Safety was analysing the State Government's Road Safety Survey to "come up with the best possible solution we can" about mobile phone use in vehicles.
Victoria Police statistics show drivers paid about $15.5 million in fines for using mobile phones last year, and 470 first year P-platers and learner drivers were booked, 62 more than in the previous year.
Police said the true figure would have been higher but for industrial action that had prevented the issuing and recording of fines.
Over the last three years 168,332 fines have been issued for driving while using a mobile. Each brought a $282 fine and three demerit points.
Mobile phones can be used in cars only if they are fixed to a cradle.
Insp Griffin said the number of drivers distracted by trying to change songs on iPod-like devices, or setting GPS destinations, was adding to police concerns.
"I wonder if they are looking in front of them," he said.
Insp Griffin said another "concerning" trend was that of mums talking on mobiles in school zones while their children were in the car.
Research showed texting while driving was the same as driving with a blood alcohol limit of .08.
"If you are driving down the road at 100km/h and something goes wrong, there are catastrophic consequences," Insp Griffin said.
TAC chief executive officer Janet Dore said a driver travelling at 100km/h who looked away for five seconds would travel almost 150 metres.
 EXCUSES TOLD TO POLICE
* It was an urgent call
* It rang so I picked it up
* I was just stupid
* I was running late
* It was a conference call with work
* It is down my bra, I’m not touching it
* When men are caught talking, they pretend the phone is a shaving razor
* I’m not touching it, it’s in my lap
* No reason, I just wanted to answer it

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