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Law change targets drivers on mobile phones and drugs

Drug and mobile phone users will be more strongly targeted as a result of new road safety measures recently passed in state parliament.

The Road Transport Legislation Amendment (Road Safety) Bill 2018 now extends police powers relating to roadside testing for cocaine, as well as increases in penalties for driving under the influence, and enables camera-based enforcement of mobile phone use.

Minister for Police and Member for Dubbo Troy Grant said the reforms were part of broader state road safety goals.

“NSW is the first jurisdiction in Australia to introduce legislation to enable automated camera enforcement of mobile phones, showing this Government’s ongoing commitment to road safety as technology and societal trends change,” Mr Grant said.

The bill amends the Road Transport Act 2013, as well as the Transport Administration Act 1988, to pay any fines from camera-detected mobile phone offences to the Community Road Safety Fund; and the Marine Safety Act 1998 to ensure regimes for oral fluid drug testing applies to marine drivers and vessel operators.

Last year, 74 people died in crashes where a driver or rider had an illicit drug present in their system. From 2012-2017, 184 crashes involved illegal mobile phone use, which resulted in seven deaths and 105 injuries.

Mr Grant said the NSW Government is committed to improving road safety and is calling on all road users to do their bit, don’t break the law and stay safe on our roads.

In a recent three-day operation which ran at the end of the school holidays, Southern NSW police conducted 781 random drug tests, with 53 returning a positive result.

Poor driver behaviour, including speeding, drink-driving, using a mobile phone and fatigue is continuing despite endless pleas from police and emergency services.

With speeding contributing to eight in ten fatalities on country roads (where the speed limit is 100km/hour or higher), the influence of drugs on a driver or the distraction of a mobile phone is amplified.

Greg Rappo, program director at non-for-profit training organisation Road Safety Education Limited, said, “As your speed increases – so does the distance you travel while your brain is processing information and reacting to it – and so does the distance you need to stop. The average time it takes for most drivers to react to a risky situation on the road is 1.5 seconds.

"A driver who is fatigued or distracted (for example, using a mobile phone or affected by drugs) may take as long as three critical seconds to react.”

The legislative reforms will come into effect from July 1, 2018.