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Dangerous Driving in Queensland Lawmakers’ Sights

Cars driving on a road in Brisbane.

Most Australians are courteous and law-abiding drivers, but there’s no denying that high-risk and dangerous driving impacts many Queenslanders every year. People’s lives can change forever due to road fatalities, injuries, property damage, loss of drivers’ licences, impoundment of vehicles, and even criminal charges.

In 2022, Queensland introduced harsher penalties1 for breaking a suite of the state’s road rules, with the revised penalties targeting high-risk offences such as speeding, running a red light, not wearing a correctly fitted seatbelt and not ensuring appropriate child restraints are worn by young passengers.

Joanna Robinson, Acting General Manager of Land Transport Safety and Regulation at Queensland Transport and Main Roads, says the intention behind jacking up penalties was to “reduce road trauma and lessen the social and financial impacts to the community by encouraging road users to use roads safely, and prevent reoffending”.  

Preliminary figures for the first half of 2023 (1 January to 2 July) showed a 14.5% reduction in deaths on Queensland roads, from 138 to 1182, compared to the same period last year. But the data can’t yet be taken as an indication of a consistent downturn in dangerous driving, and Robinson says offences are still occurring at “an unacceptable level”.
“These rules are well known and understood by drivers,” says Robinson. She said ongoing lack of compliance with the laws, “tragically continues to cause serious injury and loss of life on our roads”.

Penalties for serious driving offences in Queensland

The 2022 revision means that Queensland penalties have, in many instances, become higher than those in neighbouring states. For example, in NSW, running a red light will set you back $481 and three demerit points3; and in the Northern Territory, you’ll be up for $240 and three demerit points4. In Queensland, that same offence incurs a $619 fine and three demerit points5 – that’s more than double the Northern Territory penalty.

Also, in Queensland if you’re pulled over for two or more mobile phone, seatbelt, speeding or motorcycle helmet offences within a 12-month period, then double demerit points apply5. And if you’ve ever wondered how long your demerit points last in Queensland, the answer is three years from the date of each infringement6

Penalties for seatbelt offences

If you’re caught not wearing a correctly fitted seatbelt or one of your passengers isn’t wearing a seatbelt or child restraint, you and your non-compliant passengers (aged 16 years and older) could be up for a fine of $1,161 and four demerit points each7.

Penalties for speeding offences

  1. 1-10km/hr: $309 and 1 demerit point5
  2. 11-20km/hr: $464 and 3 demerit points5
  3. 21-30km/hr: $696 and 4 demerit points5
  4. 31-40km/hr: $1,161 and 6 demerit points5
  5. Over 40km/hr: $1,780; 8 demerit points and automatic 6-month licence suspension5

Spotlight on using a mobile phone while driving

It's not that the laws have changed in Queensland, but that the penalties for these offences are stronger. Existing regulations and penalties for drink driving, texting or illegally using a mobile phone still apply. For example, as in many states, you are not allowed to have your mobile phone in your hand or resting on your lap or any other body part while your vehicle is either moving or stationary – you must legally park the car to hold your phone8.

In February 2023, the Queensland Government closed a loophole that meant people using a phone without a SIM card – as a camera or to listen to music – could not be penalised9. In eliminating the exception, Minister for Transport and Main Roads Mark Bailey said, “These behaviours are just as distracting and dangerous as using the phone functions.”

So, SIM card or no SIM card, you can’t hold your phone while driving in Queensland or you risk incurring a fine of $1,161 and receiving four demerit points8.

To enforce these laws, the Queensland Government has been deploying cameras (both mobile equipment and fixed cameras) on Queensland roads, which can detect phone use and seatbelt non-compliance10.

In the 12 months from November 2021, when the cameras were introduced, more than 52,542 drivers or front-seat passengers were snapped not wearing seatbelts or wearing them incorrectly, and 119,862 were caught on camera using their phones illegally11.

Minister Bailey said on release of the figures that using a mobile phone while driving was as dangerous as driving with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.07 to 0.10.

“Each offender needs to ask themself what value they place on their life as using a mobile phone while driving or failing to wear a seatbelt or wear it correctly could easily end in tragedy – that’s the reality,” Mr Bailey said.

The crackdown on hooning

April 2023 saw the Queensland Government enact the harshest anti-hoon penalties in Australia12. Hooning may be part of the vernacular, but Queensland is determined to eradicate it from public life.

Street racers can now incur up to 40 penalty units, which amounts to a fine of $6,192 or 6 months in prison13. Spectating, organising or publicising hooning events are also now offences. 

Issuing penalties for traffic offences is a strategy used extensively around the world to drive behaviour change and make roads safer. Queensland is no exception. 

We continually review road safety measures and road rules to identify potential improvements, says Joanna Robinson. Combined with effective communication and enforcement, fine increases positively impact road safety.

And while the police are there to help protect you on the road, Youi is here to help cover your car. Explore our range of car insurance options and see if they could suit you14.

Note: Information in this article is relevant as of July 2023 and by its nature will change over time. Check relevant Government websites for updates if this information is important to you.

1 Source: Queensland Government – Increased penalties for dangerous driving behaviours
2 Source: Department of Transport and Main Roads - Queensland Road Crash Weekly Report No: 1327.
3 Source: NSW Government – Search offences and penalties
4 Source: NT Government – Traffic offence fines and demerit points
5 Source: Queensland Government – Demerit points schedule
6 Source: Queensland Government – About demerit points
7 Source: Queensland Government – Get the facts
8 Source: Queensland Government – Driving and mobile phones
9 Source: – Queensland removes loophole enabling drivers to avoid mobile phone penalties
10 Source: Queensland Government – Mobile phone and seatbelt cameras
11 Source: Queensland Government – 170k Queenslanders caught in first year of phone and seatbelt cameras
12 Source: Queensland Government – Tough new hoon laws pass Queensland Parliament
13 Source: Queensland Government – Sentencing fines and penalties for offences
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