Police aim to drive home message

NEXT time you're tempted to dial while driving, remember you're nearly 25 times more likely to crash.

Senior Constable Steve Ockerby speaks to a motorist in Launceston yesterday. Picture: PAUL SCAMBLER

Senior Constable Steve Ockerby speaks to a motorist in Launceston yesterday. Picture: PAUL SCAMBLER

That's the message from police who are faced with a growing number of motorists using phones behind the wheel.

In the year to date, Northern command has seen a 33 per cent rise in people (880) booked for the offence.

``An increasing number of crashes are now being attributed to people using their mobile phones, including checking their messages,'' said Senior Constable Annabel Shegog, of Northern Community Policing Services.

``It creates dangerous situations that can and have resulted in serious and fatal crashes occurring.'' 

Senior Constable Shegog said it was common to catch motorists using their phones even in Bluetooth-equipped cars.

``Offenders are not limited to young people either,'' she said.

``Many parents and grandparents are reliant on their phones and are setting a poor example for novice drivers.''

So what are the rules?

If the phone can be operated by the driver without touching any part of the phone, including answering and terminating a call, then that's the exception. Otherwise everything else, including texting and even just holding the phone, is banned. 

``You cannot touch your mobile phone, even when your car has stopped at an intersection, is at traffic lights or is stationary in a line of traffic,'' she said. 

``Holding includes resting the mobile on the driver's lap  or between the chin and shoulder, or passing the phone to a passenger.'' 

Senior Constable Shegog said the risk of crashing while using a phone increased by as much as four times and up to 23 times when  texting. 

Using your phone while driving is a $300 fine and three demerit points.

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