19 October 2023

Illawarra drivers heading in right direction over mobile phone use but still lag behind state average

| Michele Tydd
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Woman using her mobile phone while driving

New statistics show that thousands of local drivers were caught using their phones in the 20 months to September. Photo: iStock/Charday Penn.

The latest figures on Illawarra drivers caught using mobile phones reflect a gradual modification in behavior since cameras were introduced in 2019, according to Transport for NSW data.

However, the region’s offence rate is still higher than the state average.

From 1 January, 2022, to 31 August this year, cameras checked 1.93 million vehicles within the Illawarra, resulting in 4280 penalty notices.

This equates to about one in 451 drivers checked by cameras, which represents what is known as an offence rate of 0.22 per cent, compared with the state average of 0.16 per cent.

The good news is that it is lower than the same period the previous year when penalty notices were issued to one in every 330 drivers checked, an offence rate of 0.30 per cent.

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“Simply taking your eyes off the road for longer than two seconds, the time it takes to read a message on a mobile phone, doubles the risk of a crash,” said Transport NSW’s Deputy Secretary of Safety, Environment and Regulations, Sally Webb.

“No matter who you are or how good a driver you think you are, the message is simple: get your hand off it.

“Those who think they can continue to put the safety of themselves, their passengers and the community at risk have been warned and will face the consequences.”

Transport for NSW has 47 cameras operating statewide, but does not disclose those locations.

The fine if detected using a phone while driving in NSW is $362, or $481 in a school zone. It also carries five demerit points, which means loss of licence for learners and P1 licence holders caught using their phones while driving.

Mobile phone detection cameras were introduced in NSW to address statistics that revealed that between 2012 and 2019, there were 191 casualty crashes involving driver/rider use of handheld mobile phones.

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The six-month pilot program was strongly supported by the NRMA in the hope of reducing driver distraction.

During that time, one in 82 drivers across the state was caught on the detection cameras illegally using their phones.

Researchers have found that at 60 km/h, if drivers look at their phone for just two seconds, they will travel 33 metres virtually blind, according to a NSW Government paper on mobile phones and distractions.

A word of warning – road rules don’t restrict passengers from using a mobile phone.

However, if a passenger is using a mobile phone, the screen of the phone must not be visible to the driver from the normal driving position.

If caught on camera, the driver can be fined under the rule listed as ”drive vehicle with TV/VDU image likely to distract”.

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