Don't heed the call: police warn drivers over phones

POLICE are pleading with drivers to let their mobile phones ring out after figures revealed more than 55,000 Victorian drivers were booked for using their phones at the wheel last year.

Sergeant Michael Free, who heads a team of 11 Stonnington Highway Patrol officers, said mobile phone usage while driving had to stop.

The penalty is $282 and three demerit points.

"There is a misconception that hands-free devices eliminate the danger ... [but] any distraction is still a serious hazard," Mr Free said. "People seem to think that answering their phone is much more important than focussing on the road."

More than 168,000 fines have been issued for driving while using a mobile over the past three years across Victoria.

Adam Power, a driving instructor in Melbourne's south east, said there were few more dangerous things people could do while driving than using a phone. "You put your friends and your family at risk every second you look away from the road," he said.

"Our multitasking skills are already stretched when you get behind the wheel. Adding another distraction such as friends, radio, mobile phones, adds another second to your reaction time."

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