Drivers in a fine mess over mobile phone use
Two thirds of fines dished out to drivers busted using their mobile phones behind the wheel have been referred to the state's debt collection agency since the government jacked up the penalty to a massive $1000.
The Courier-Mail can reveal 1569 of the roughly 2300 fines issued since the $1000 distracted driving penalty came into effect on February 1 have been sent to the State Penalties Enforcement Registry for enforcement action.
It means there are now about 20,665 mobile phone fines worth $7.8 million sitting on SPER's books - an increase of more than $300,000 since the start of the year when there were 22,414 fines lodged with SPER.
Asked about the effectiveness of the $1000 fines, considering the large number being directed to SPER, Transport Minister Mark Bailey insisted the level of the fine still sent a strong message about the seriousness of the "reckless behaviour".
"Even if your fine is referred to SPER, you'll still need to pay it eventually," he said.
"You also lose four demerit points, and another eight if you're caught a second time in 12 months.
"Those points cannot be deferred, and for most people will mean they will lose their license on a second offence.
"If you or someone you love loses their life because of driver distraction, you cannot get that life back."
Mr Bailey said the number of lives lost on Queensland roads due to driver distraction had "dramatically dropped" to two fatalities so far this year - down from the 54 fatalities recorded in 2018 and 2019.
"Last year, 13,280 Queenslanders were caught using their mobile phones while driving," he said.
"We've seen the number of people using their mobile phone while driving drop, with only 2,300 people fined for using their mobile phones since we introduced these new penalties."
LNP deputy leader Tim Mander said fine dodgers should not be given a "free ride", as he accused the government of dropping the ball on SPER's debt recovery.
"With almost $1.3 billion in debts owed, Labor should be doing more to recoup these bad debts, particularly with the state's finances under such immense strain," he said.
Mr Mander said the LNP supported any measure to make the roads safer and pointed to the party's plan to have more on the spot enforcement, use 'camera in use' signs and publish speed camera locations.
Originally published as Drivers in a fine mess over mobile phone use