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Increase penalties for mobile phone use behind the wheel to match the danger it causes!

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About two years ago I penned a letter that I sent to several organisations including my local member of federal parliament. This is a significantly updated and modified version following the recent 1200 fines issued in a single day in NSW for mobile phone use by drivers, and a police officer losing part of his leg as a result of someone using their mobile phone overnight.  Whether you are within NSW or outside, please feel free to voice your thoughts and join the campaign!

Dear Ms Berejiklian,

It is time both Australia and NSW sent the following message: Drivers. It is time you make a choice, your license, or your mobile phone. We the undersigned stress the need for urgent consideration of the complete lack of deterrence existing penalties are providing to deter drivers from picking up their mobile phone while behind the wheel.

I personally gave up riding a scooter in Sydney, despite the convenience, due to the unimaginable increase in mobile phone use by drivers in the last two years, to the point of significant risk to my life every time I got on the road. Discussions with others have revealed similar sentiments and experiences, and hence I pen this letter.

We (the undersigned) therefore implore you to consider an immediate review of existing legislation with the view to investigate and consider the below suggestions. Such changes would be world-leading and communicate that NSW (and) Australia has a zero-tolerance policy for putting other road-users' lives at risk!

The intent is to create a safer environment for all road users, especially those of the two-wheeled and two-legged variety. This problem has escalated far beyond epidemic proportions, and something needs to be done to protect children, the elderly, our cyclists and motorcyclists, our police force, and indeed everyone outside the metallic bubble driver's find themselves in.

I propose the following because I truly believe, based on my observations, that these drivers are putting other lives at risk in a similar way (and sometimes worse) than drivers under the influence of alcohol. Such risk includes the blatantly apparent inattention, even when stopped at a set of lights, and I fear it is only a matter of time before a driver has their head down and misses a child running out in front of their car.

Proposed changes for handheld mobile phone use in a stationary vehicle:

We propose that the handheld use of a mobile phone in a stationary motor vehicle should carry an on-the-spot fine of $1,100, an immediate loss of six demerit points, and a maximum disqualification of three months for a first offence, with subsequent offences increasing the penalties accordingly.

These changes stress the key objective: Drivers, it is time you make a choice, your license, or your mobile phone.

Proposed changes for handheld mobile phone use in a moving vehicle:

We propose that handheld use of a mobile phone in any motor vehicle that is in motion, should carry (at minimum) the same penalty as low range prescribed concentration of alcohol (PCA - a.k.a. drink driving) with any necessary modifications to minimise the need for court appearances (i.e. on-the-spot fines for first-time offenders).

The current penalty for low-range PCA/drink-driving in NSW is a maximum court imposed fine of $1,100, a minimum disqualification of 3 months, an automatic disqualification of 6 months.

I further propose that any handheld mobile use in a moving vehicle in a school zone or with a child in the car, carry an immediate penalty equivalent to (at minimum) mid-range PCA/drink-driving. At this time mid-range PCA in NSW carries a maximum court imposed fine of $2,200, a maximum gaol term of 9 months, minimum disqualification of 6 months, unlimited maximum disqualification and an automatic disqualification of 12 months with an immediate license suspension.

Again, the proposal stresses the key objective: Drivers, it is time you make a choice, your license, or your mobile phone.

Ms Berejiklian, you may think this is harsh, but it is time people realised that this is seriously putting lives at risk, and drivers are gambling EVERY DAY with their lives and the lives of those around them. If you think gaol time is harsh, think of this, the person that picks up the phone, especially in a school zone, around children, is actively and consciously making a decision, whether they like it or not, that the lives around them do not matter, and they have no regard at all for them. For the in-school-zone proposals, I will add that this should be decided by on a case by case basis and the specific circumstances and not automatically imposed (just to be clear). However, the higher penalties should be made available in these circumstances for relevant cases of gross negligence.

I strongly recommend if you think otherwise that you take a mere 2 minutes out of your day to view the following video in which Belgian learners were informed they had to pass a test of texting while driving safely in order to get their L's. Hopefully it will be an eye-opener for you.

Ms Berejiklian, the current penalties are not working and are not a deterrent, Australia needs change, and NSW can lead the way, and hence we look to you for a solution.

Drivers, it is time you make a choice, your license, or your mobile phone.

We look forward to your response at your earliest convenience.

Kind Regards,
Stuart Ryan


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