Drivers nabbed on the phone


Undercover traffic police have helped nab more than 60 drivers on their phones in a two day operation in the South East.

As part of Operation Spotto, 187 offences were detected in Springvale, Cranbourne and Dandenong on 15-16 February.

Sixty-eight drivers were using mobile phones, 19 not wearing seatbelts, 19 disobeying traffic lights/signs and 15 speeding.

There were also five unregistered vehicles, three disqualified drivers and three drug drivers caught.

Police also issued 18 vehicle defect notices.

During the op, officers with walkie-talkies posed as pedestrians as they spied on drivers touching their phones.

“People are stuck in the cars at traffic lights, and they can’t help but go for their phone,” State Highway Patrol Sergeant Harry Lazarou told Nine News during an operation on Springvale Road.

“We always get the ‘I’ve got to call the boss, I’m running late’, but a lot of the time they’re just their scrolling on social media.”

New road rules were introduced in 2023 that now include looking at, touching or having a mobile device resting on a driver’s body.

The penalty for using or touching phones while driving is $577 and four demerit points.

Not wearing a seatbelt will result in a $385 fine and the loss of three demerit points.

“To people that say it’s revenue raising, I say it’s all voluntary contributions,” Sgt Lazarou said.

“This is part of the fatal five, which is distraction, impairment, fatigue, speed and seatbelts, so there is just zero tolerance from police.”

The State Goverment has rolled out six distracted driver cameras using AI-rechnology to capture high-resolution images of drivers using phones or not wearing seatbelts.

From 1 July to 30 December 2023 the cameras detected 53,105 offences, including 16,499 drivers and 6,375 passengers not wearing seatbelts, and 30,231 drivers using mobile phones. More than $17 million in fines were issued.

The network of camera trailers regularly move around 162 locations in rural and metropolitan areas, monitoring drivers for about 8000 hours a month.

According to the Government, research shows that more than half of drivers have used a mobile phone while driving which can increase the risk of crashing up to ten times compared to an alert driver.

More than 140 drivers and passengers killed on Victorian roads in the last five years were not wearing a seatbelt ─ that’s just over a quarter of all vehicle occupants where seatbelt status was known.

A recent RACV poll has revealed that many Victorians consider drivers using phones one of their biggest road safety concerns.

“The RACV poll highlights that Victorians are still noticing people using their phones or devices while driving and they have highlighted it as their top safety concern on our roads,” RACV head of policy James Williams said.

“Distracted driving is a major contributor to road crashes and we all need to do our part and make sure we put our devices away and concentrate on driving safely.”

Under Victoria’s road laws, drivers or riders who hold a full licence can briefly touch a mounted device or inbuilt system for music and navigation as long as they are not entering text, scrolling, or viewing images, social media, websites or videos.

They are not permitted to touch unmounted or wearable devices while driving or riding.