p platesAMTA supports Victorian Government efforts to draw attention to the dangers of driving and texting but has raised questions about the extension of a ban to all P-plate drivers using legal hands-free mobile phones.

The Victorian Premier this week announced that new laws would extend the ban on first-year probationary drivers in that State using hands-free mobiles to the full four-year probationary period.

AMTA spokesman Randal Markey was quoted in the Herald Sun newspaper saying that the mobile telecommunications industry had supported bans on mobile use for learners and P1 drivers, however, the extension to all P-plate drivers had raised a number of potential safety issues.

“We note the extension of the ban to all P-plate drivers in Victoria and pose the following questions: at some stage young drivers have to learn how to cope with distractions, which are a part of life behind the wheel.

“There are all sorts of distractions – not just mobile phones. Is an extension of the ban running a risk of shielding drivers from gaining experience how to cope with potential risks? Some driving experts have suggested a ban on all mobile use for drivers under 26 years of age. Where should we draw the line?

“Could this extension of a ban to all P-plate drivers run the risk of forcing some probationary drivers to ignore the ban and try and use their mobiles illegally while driving by attempting to hide them on their laps to avoid detection?

“If so, could such a ban be counter-productive because this outcome would be more dangerous than the alternative of getting drivers to comply with the law of using cradles and Bluetooth and using best practice mobile phone technology to reduce driver risks?

“AMTA has produced a new brochure, “Keep your eyes on the road,” to show all drivers how to comply with the law and reduce risks to manageable levels by using legal hands-free mobiles when driving.

“It makes it very clear that using a legal hands-free kit is not appropriate in all driving circumstances.

“We believe that consumers will modify their behaviour if they understand the risks and have reasonable alternatives.

“We agree that targeting texting, which is dangerous, illegal and unacceptable, is where the focus should be. Naturalistic driving studies in the US have shown that texting while driving has a risk factor of up to 23 times greater risk of a crash or near crash than undistracted driving.

“In the end the Victorian government may have answers to these questions or they might believe that the potential benefits of such a move outweigh any possible risks or unintended consequences of such actions. We think it is important that these questions are discussed openly while respecting the right and responsibility of the Victorian government to make laws for its citizens’ safety as it sees fit.”

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