Australia’s peak medical body have called for stricter penalties to be applied to new drivers who text or use their mobile phones while driving a vehicle.
The Australian Medical Association (AMA) has made the call because distracting mobile phones and other electronic devices, it said, were a major cause of accidents, trauma, and death.
“Your driver’s licence is a privilege, not a right. Drivers who breach the road rules are putting themselves and others at risk, and must face meaningful sanctions,” said AMA president Dr Michael Gannon in a statement.
“Doctors – along with paramedics, ambulance officers, and nurses – see the tragic consequences of road trauma,” he said. “They see when road safety is ignored and when avoidable accidents occur – accidents that take lives and cause horrific injuries.”
Gannon said that on average three people die on Australian roads every day and 90 are seriously injured – two permanently.
“That represents about 33,900 adults and children every year who are killed or maimed in avoidable incidents, and thousands more who are affected by the trauma of losing a partner, relative, or friend,” he said.
"Too many people are killed or maimed on Australian roads every year. Speeding, fatigue, and distraction are major factors. Leave your phone alone while driving" – Australian Medical Association's position statement on road safety 2018. #7News pic.twitter.com/NwPIIW0wHX
— 7 News Adelaide (@7NewsAdelaide) January 4, 2018
‘Good Habits Must be Ingrained’
The AMA want learner and probationary drivers to lose their licences for a year if caught texting or using their mobile phones.
“Good habits must be ingrained in new, inexperienced drivers,” said Gannon. “There should be zero tolerance of provisional and learner drivers who use mobile phones or electronic devices, and penalties should include the loss of licence for up to a year.”
Currently penalties vary from state to state for provisional and learner drivers. In New South Wales, provisional (on red plates) and learner drivers lose four demerit points and their license for a period of three months if they touch their mobile device. In Victoria similar level drivers lose four demerit points while in Queensland three are lost, reported 9NEWS.
The AMA’s statement follows a holiday season that left 28 dead on the roads in the State of New South Wales alone. That is twice as many as the previous year.
— Nine News Australia (@9NewsAUS) January 3, 2018
NSW Police Deputy Commissioner Specialist Support Catherine Burn said the carnage of the roads is already continuing on the roads in 2018.
“Simply put, it is poor decisions that are killing people on our roads and it’s not just the person making poor decisions that are dying, they are often taking innocent people with them,” Burn said, reported 9NEWS.
“While we will continue enforce the road rules, we need everyone in the community to change their attitude toward road safety.”
According to the AMA, annual economic cost of road crashes in Australia is estimated at AU$27 billion per annum. Since data on the road toll began in 1925, there have been more than 189,000 deaths on Australian roads, according to figures cited in a road safety position statement put out by the AMA on Thursday.