Drivers failing to hang up on phone at the wheel a fatal mistake, police say
IT may be one of Cairns' busiest streets but that did not stop local drivers who, in the space of an hour yesterday, were spotted doing everything from texting on their mobile phones to letting a large dog roam around the front seat.
As police upped the road safety ante by adding "inattention'' to their Fatal Four campaign yesterday - creating the Fatal Five - The Cairns Post took to the street to see just how badly Far North drivers behaved on the road.
The results were shocking, with 19 incidents recorded along Abbott St between 2pm-3pm.
It has prompted a senior Far North police officer to label some local driving behaviour as "ludicrous'' and beg road users to clean up their act during the Christmas period.
"It's a surprise to observe that number in that timeframe and it is disappointing to see that number of drivers showing so much inattention,'' Far Northern region acting Supt Brian Connors said.
"We pay particular attention to the use of mobile phones because the use ... is really prevalent in the area.
"You see people taking pictures on their phone, checking their emails, on the internet; this is just ludicrous behaviour while you're behind the wheel.''
Queensland Police's Fatal Four officially became the Fatal Five yesterday and Police Minister Jack Dempsey said it followed more than 96,000 driver distraction offences being recorded around the state between January 1, 2010 and July 31, 2012.
"Too many Queensland drivers are being distracted while on the road by things like using a mobile phone, complex sound systems, on-board DVD and satellite navigation,'' Mr Dempsey said.
"In 2011, 15 per cent of people taken to hospital after a car crash were in a crash caused by inattention.''
It took less than two minutes for The Cairns Post to spot the first offender yesterday, with a young man in a white hatchback texting on his mobile phone.
Throughout the hour four people were seen on the phone, two were spotted texting and one reading a document in his work utility.
Among several other strange incidents, a woman in a small hatchback had a dog wandering around the front seat, another woman was using the rearview mirror to style her hair and a third was turned around addressing young children in the back seat.
The series of events comes with the Far North's road toll sitting at 23, four more than the overall total for 2011.
"We need people to concentrate on the road and concentrate on their driving, and anything they do that distracts from that puts other road users at risk,'' Supt Connors said.
"It's unfortunate with the advent of smart phones there are even more distractions like checking emails and looking on the internet.''
The Fatal Five is: speeding, driving, not wearing a seatbelt, driving while fatigued, inattention.
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Don't be distracted: Constable Matt Shield keeps a close watch on drivers in Abbott St yesterday on the same day police launched the Fatal Five campaign. Picture: BRENDAN FRANCIS