To paraphrase those old road safety ads, if you text and drive, you're a bloody idiot. Thankfully, the punishment for this crime is about to be doubled in NSW. During this year's holiday period, anyone caught using their phone behind the wheel in NSW will receive six demerit points on their licence -- up from the current penalty of three points. This means you will effectively lose half your full licence in one fell swoop. Hope that Facebook status update was worth it.
Driving with phone photo from Shutterstock
The six-point penalty will come into affect on December 24 and revert to normal on January 4. (The fine for the offence will remain unchanged, at $319.) Demerit points incurred in NSW stay on your record for 40 months: get caught once, and you can look forward to more than three years of overly careful, paranoid driving. (Which is probably a good thing.)
The motorists most affected by this change will be Learners and Provisional 1 licence holders who will lose their licences instantly due to the change in points. Provided they have no prior offences, P2 drivers will slip through with a single point remaining.
In announcing the change, NSW Roads Minister Duncan Gay said he was taking a deliberately tough stance. "If I save your life, I've done you a favour," he said.
Personally, we welcome this news. You can argue that certain speeding offenses are stupid, but using a phone while driving is really inexcusable. If you get fined and ruin your Christmas, you only have yourself to blame.
The holiday demerits are just the beginning: in NSW, the penalty for using a mobile phone when not permitted will increase from three demerit points to four at the beginning of next year. Just desserts, we say.