Road Transport Amendment (Mobile Phone Detection) Bill 2019

15th October 2019

Mr GREG PIPER (Lake Macquarie) (12:58:26): I too speak on the Road Transport Amendment (Mobile Phone Detection) Bill 2019. I acknowledge the member for Seven Hills and all the other members of this House who have served on the front lines and have firsthand experience of the tragic circumstances and trauma associated with motor vehicle accidents. I also acknowledge the members who have worked in caring services, such as nursing and other medical professions, and who also have firsthand experience of motor vehicle accidents.

I, too, will be supporting the Road Transport Amendment (Mobile Phone Detection) Bill 2019. I note some of the views put forward by members in this House on behalf of others who are concerned about intrusion into people's privacy and the need to make this an educative process with associated signage on the camera systems and a cultural change. I believe that the Government has the balance right in this case. I fully support the Minister and his staff in the way in which they have drafted the bill. To be frank, I do not know what it will take for many of these car drivers to realise that touching a mobile phone or being distracted in any at all while driving a motor vehicle is high?risk behaviour.

Between 2012 and 2016, 21 people were killed and 307 were seriously injured in road accidents in Lake Macquarie and between 2017 and 2018 a further 18 were killed. That is the fatality rate in the local area command [LAC], but largely in my electorate, which is 1½ times higher than the New South Wales average. Last June I believe it was, I produced a video about the impact of those road accidents on the local area and I recorded each of the roadside memorials. We released it and talked about the need for people, particularly young people who are overrepresented unfortunately, to be mindful of the impact of road accidents. I know in the moment that will not necessarily happen. But if they know, the moment they hop in the car, they can be detected by one of these amazing artificial intelligent camera systems, which could lead to the loss of money, points and perhaps their licence, it will have a much more significant impact. I am sad that it has come to this, as I am sure we all are.

I am not always in favour of increasing regulation. We have done so much to improve our roads, with better cars and systems, yet we often say we have to reduce the speed limit and so on. Sometimes I think a little bit of nanny stateism comes into it and that has been discussed in the public arena, but that is not the case here. We have to deal here with a very serious problem, an emerging problem that nobody saw coming 10 or 15 years ago, or certainly not enough people saw coming. Lake Macquarie LAC Commander Danny Sullivan, who appeared in the video with me—I was very pleased to work with Danny on this as he understands these issues—tells me that the vast majority of crashes are the result of four things: drink-driving, speeding, not wearing a seatbelt and people using mobile phones.

To personalise this a little, I have been riding motorcycles pretty well all of my life, certainly since I first got my licence when I was 17. I still ride motorcycles. Motorcyclists are more exposed to road trauma than other road users. Motorcyclists are very well aware of car drivers using mobile phones or being distracted in some way. It is just one of the things that we tend to note. Mature riders broaden their vision as to what is happening. One of the things that always pops into my line of vision when drivers are coming towards me is where their eyes are. Way too often I see that their eyes are not on the road. Where are they? They might be looking down or they might be looking to the side. They may also be going around a corner with a mobile phone to their ear. Nothing makes me angrier than to see that because it is just unnecessary.

This is not just an issue for us; it is a big issue in the United States of America. I travel to the United States quite a bit. I have ridden many miles over there and I know it is a really big issue. There has been a massive attempt across our jurisdictions in New South Wales and around Australia, with the "Get your hand off it" and other campaigns, to make people realise how dangerous it is to use a mobile phone while they are driving, but these campaigns just have not worked. Therefore, we have to go to the next stage and make the impost on those people who break the law that much more significant.

I take this opportunity to put in a plug for the Motorcycle Council of NSW. This is Motorcycle Awareness Month and there is a ride on this Thursday. The council has been a big advocate for improved laws in this space, but I say to the Minister that I do not think any of its advocacy foresaw the opportunity to deploy this sort of technology. I think this is great legislation. I do not believe we should be tipping off people. I do not object to having camera detection warning signs, but they should not be mandatory; it should be part of the educative process. If people are doing the wrong thing they should not be given a second chance.

A traffic infringement on the roads that can easily happen is speed creep. If a road has an 80?kilometre?an?hour speed limit it is sometimes very easy to be driving at 85, 87 or 88 kilometres an hour, depending on the circumstances. Sometimes you check your speed because you see a sign at the side of the road warning motorists that a speed camera is ahead, and that is appropriate. But using a mobile phone while driving is a conscious decision that puts the driver, their occupants and other road users including cyclists, motorcyclists and pedestrians, at increased risk. It is not inadvertent and it cannot be tolerated. I believe this legislation is a very strong step to take—I do not know what else we can do. I acknowledge the Minister and his staff, and I fully support the legislation.

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