Queenslanders caught using their mobile phones behind the wheel will face the toughest fines in the country from next year.
Anyone caught using a phone will be fined $1000 from February 1 – and drivers caught twice within a year risk losing their licence.
The fine is more than double the current penalty of $400.
Transport Minister Mark Bailey said Queensland would also trial cameras already in use in NSW that are specifically designed to detect mobile phone use on the roads.
“They are the toughest laws in Australia … because this problem has been escalating,” he told ABC radio on Thursday.
“I just can’t accept the road toll – we’ve got to deal with this.”
Behind Queensland, the stiffest penalties for phone use while driving at in South Australia – but, at $534, it’s just over half what Queenslanders will face. Other states and territories are even further behind.
The move has the backing of Queensland’s peak motoring body, the RACQ. But RACQ head of technical and safety policy Steve Spalding said better enforcement was needed to back up the hefty new fines.
“The higher fines announced today will only work if people think there’s a good chance they’ll get caught, so that means we need effective enforcement, such as more police on the roads and the trialling of camera technologies in Queensland,” he said.
“We always call for strong education and enforcement in the first instance, but the behaviour of too many motorists hasn’t changed, so this harsher penalty is warranted.”
Mr Spalding said driver education was also vital.
“When you’re looking at your phone, you’re not looking at where you’re going or thinking about driving. You probably don’t even have your hands on the steering wheel,” he said.
“It’s simple, using your phone behind the wheel means you’re putting yourself and others in danger and it’s simply selfish.”
The Queensland push comes days after NSW confirmed it would spend $88 million on fixed and portable cameras at 45 spots across the state to spot drivers using their phones.
Announcing the proposal in September, NSW Roads Minister Andrew Constance said the move was about saving lives.
“I want [driver] behaviour to change and I want it changed immediately,” he said.
Mr Bailey said Queensland drivers already knew they were breaking the law and risking lives by picking up their devices, and there was no need for a long lead in time for the new fines.
“The safest thing for people to do is to change their behaviour right now because that means safer roads.”