Australian doctors call for tougher penalties for young drivers

Published: 04 January 2018 Image credit: Reuters

AMA is calling for tougher penalties for drivers caught using mobile phones

Provisional drivers caught using their mobile phones while driving should face a one-year suspension, the Australian Medical Association (AMA) has demanded.

Following the release of their first ever Position Statement on road safety, AMA President Dr Michael Gannon said they were concerned about drivers using mobile phones and navigational devices as well as pedestrians and cyclists who use headphones on the roads.

“Mobile phones and other devices are driver distractions, and a major cause of accidents, trauma, and death,” Dr Gannon said.

“We want to change the culture and mentality about using mobile devices in cars.”

Dr Gannon said that doctors and other emergency service workers are forced to “see the tragic consequences of road trauma” when drivers ignore road safety rules and avoidable accidents occur.

“Good habits must be ingrained in new, inexperienced drivers,” he said.

“Your driver’s licence is a privilege, not a right.

“Drivers who breach the road rules are putting themselves and others at risk, and must face meaningful sanctions.”

Sixty-six people have died in car crashes across Australia during the recent holiday period.

NSW alone recorded 392 deaths from road accidents in 2017, leaving state Police “bitterly disappointed and frustrated” that driver safety messages were not being heard, especially during the recent holiday period.

The AMA has also called for the adoption of uniform criteria to assess the ability and confidence of older drivers.

“Doctors should be providing advice on when to retire from driving,” Dr Gannon said.

“This may require medical examinations or assessments of drivers beyond a specified age.”

The annual economic cost of road crashes in Australia is estimated to be $27 billion, according to the Department of Infrastructure.

The AMA said reducing road accidents requires investment by governments, industry, and the community.

They added that there should be a much greater focus on accidents related to driver fatigue, as well as speeding and driver distractions.