Learner drivers and those on their P plates should lose their licence for a year if caught texting or using their mobile phones while on the road, Australia’s peak medical body says.
The Australian Medical Association made the call as it released its first ever position paper on road safety in which it outlined a raft of measures for drivers, pedestrians and cyclists.
It said laws covering the use of mobile phones and electronic devices in cars should be strictly enforced, with a “zero tolerance” approach introduced for P-plate and L-plate drivers who should lose their licences for up to a year if caught using them.
AMA president Dr Michael Gannon said mobile telephones and electronic devices, including navigational devices, were distractions for drivers and a major cause of accidents, trauma, and death.
“We want to change the culture and mentality about using mobile devices in cars,” he said in a statement on Thursday.
“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.”
The release of the AMA’s position paper on road safety comes after a horror few weeks on the nation’s roads, with 66 people having lost their lives in road crashes during the holiday period so far.
The paper also includes calls for politicians to consider introducing laws targeting driver fatigue, one of the top three contributors to Australia’s road toll, in a similar fashion to those aimed at drink drivers.
The AMA also wants national standards introduced educating young people about road rules and for assessing older people to test whether they should still be driving.
Dr Gannon said young people should start having formal lessons early on in their lives about road rules and the responsibilities of pedestrians, who face a host of safety risks while using headphones, earpieces and mobile devices.
He also backed joint guidelines issued by Austroads and the National Transport Commission on how older people should be assessed to see if they are still fit to drive. ”
All states and territories must adopt uniform criteria for assessing the functional ability of older drivers, as the discrepancies between jurisdictions are problematic,” Dr Gannon said.
“Doctors should be providing advice on when to retire from driving. This may require medical examinations or assessments of drivers beyond a specified age.”
The AMA’s position paper says that by making drivers more responsible and more aware of their behaviour and its consequences, along with the availability of safer vehicles, the number of preventable road fatalities and injuries should fall.