The temptation to quickly respond to a text message or take a phone call while in slow-moving traffic can be fairly great.
However, this is against the law – and police in South Australia are cracking down on motorists who do this with two new campaigns.
Acting officer in charge of the Traffic Support Branch, Chief Inspector Denise Gray, launched twin road safety campaigns Operation Distraction and Belt Up on Friday (April 29th).
The former targets those who use their mobile while at the wheel and the latter highlights the importance of buckling seatbelts on the road.
Ms Gray told Adelaide Now that based on her previous experience, she expects police will catch around 50 people a day over the course of the next month in Adelaide alone. This number of people are thought to be using their phones while driving – and are therefore breaking the law.
She emphasised just how important it is to take action on dangerous driving and discourage people from using their smartphones at the wheel. “We believe this is a significant road safety issue which impacts the entire community.”
Ms Gray also called on Australians to do their bit by discouraging others from allowing themselves to be distracted while driving. “Tackling this issue is going to take a change in community culture – that means family, friends and colleagues saying to each other 'put it down'.”
The last time the police carried out this kind of campaign in February, 1,413 drivers were caught using their mobile phones while on the road, with a further 429 people found not wearing a seatbelt.
Mobile phone use in the city will be the primary focus of the new month-long campaign, while seatbelt use will be the focus on rural roads. Both legs of the initiative will commence on May 1st.
Research cited by Ms Gray indicated that the risk of crashing is increased by at least 400 per cent when the driver is using their mobile – and fatalities are ten times more likely in road crashes when occupants of any vehicle are not wearing seatbelts.
“These figures clearly indicate that a fine may be the least of a driver's worries,” Ms Gray remarked. “If you can't leave your phone alone while driving, put it in the glove box, or the back seat. This behaviour is simply unacceptable.”
The fine for using a mobile phone while driving is $315, while the charge for failing to belt up is $341 – and both of these fines are subject to a $60 victims of crime levy.