Safe driving advocates say new phone-driving penalties aren't harsh enough

If you're caught using your phone illegally while driving, you will now pay more. As of this weekend the fine for doing so has nearly doubled.

The number of people getting caught on their phones is skyrocketing each year, but some safe driving advocates say the increase in fines is not a big enough deterrent.

It didn't take Newshub's cameras long on Sunday to find people on their phones while driving. It's a problem that isn't getting better and now Police has put the fines up - from $80 to $150.

Advocates for safer driving say it's not enough, but it's a start.

"$150 is fine for now and they will have to see where that will go and whether people will respond to it, but there's definitely other steps we can take to try and curb that problem," says Students Against Dangerous Driving national manager Donna Govorko.

Police say using a mobile phone is one of the main behaviours that contributes to death and injury on the roads, which is why they're cracking down on it.

Mobile phone infringements have skyrocketed over the past decade:

  • In 2010 there were 8235 tickets issued
  • In 2015 that went up to 27,975 tickets
  • Last year there were over 40,000 tickets for mobile phone use

"Distracted driving is a real problem and it's a fatal problem, I think there's been 22 fatals last year and that's under-reported," Govorko says.

Most people Newshub spoke to didn't know about the increase in fines but also weren't clear on what they can do with a phone in a car.

"Not really, but I would not use a phone in my car because I have common sense," one person said.

"I wouldn't have a clue," another said.

In fact, you can't:

  • Hold your phone while driving or at an intersection or lights
  • Create, read or send a message
  • Perform any activity while holding a phone and driving

But if your phone is mounted and touched only infrequently you can:

  • Make or receive a call
  • Play music or audio
  • Use it for navigation 

Changes don't include an increase in demerit points and we are still lenient compared to some countries.

In parts of Australia it's an instant $1000 for using your phone while driving so time will tell if these new fines work as a better deterrent.