Friday, 2 April 2010

I got a fine for using a mobile phone while driving yesterday. While the experience will set me back just over $250, there are some interesting elements to it that deserve telling here.

It happened as I was driving down King Street, Newtown, in the afternoon. The street was, at that time of day, packed with traffic groaning ponderously away from the broad avenue of City Road into the narrow defile of a King Street that was packed with people on a Thursday night.

I had glanced down at my lap briefly just where City Road leaves Sydney University behind. At that point, there is an intersection just past the university's Army building. By glancing down at the phone and dialling mum's number, I had caused the traffic to back up. Ahead of me was a large space that, at the speed we were travelling, should have been full.

Mum's number didn't answer and I left no message on the answering machine. Just past the first approaches in the north end of King Street, a clump of police caught my attention. Suddenly, a female officer was pointing a baton at me, signalling me to pull in. I turned into the side street where a male officer came to the window.

He told me that I had been pulled over because I had used a mobile device while driving. He asked who I had been calling. I mumbled a bit then said, "My mother."

He asked to see my (Queensland) license. He took it and made notes on a pad, then went around to the back of the car to get the registration details. He asked if I had a NSW drivers license and I answered "No". He asked if the car was a rental and I said "Yes". Then he told me that an infringement notice would be delivered to the address on my license and that I could contest the charge in court if I chose.

The fine would be $253. This is quite harsh, and there's no knowing if the spotter cops at the end of City Road had taken a photograph of me using the mobile phone. If they hadn't, it was their word against mine, and I had a passenger in the car with me.

Of course, I won't contest the charge. That would be a waste of time and energy. Much easier to pay up and avoid using a mobile while driving. Small price to pay for road safety? I'm a very safe driver so I don't worry about myself. It's all those other maniacs on four wheels who give the the heebie-geebies.

Pic credit: Third International Conference on Early Warning.

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