Editor’s note (11/10/19): This story has been amended to make clear that the driver was not fined for drinking water, as initially reported. Queensland Police have investigated and determined that the claims were incorrect.
The Queensland Police Service (QPS) has dismissed claims a man was fined for drinking water behind the wheel while driving, but reminded drivers such fines can be issued.
A Beaudesert man claimed he had been fined $173 and docked one demerit point for consuming water from a plastic bottle as he was driving home when it was 39 degrees Celsius.
Queensland Police have told the ABC they have spoken with the driver and confirmed the fine was not issued.
Drivers often take chances trying to multitask when driving on their daily commute. (ABC News: Giulio Saggin)
However, a senior officer from Road Policing Command has said drivers can be fined for being distracted behind the wheel — including consuming food or drinks.
The motorist claimed he was pulled over by the police and told it was illegal to drink anything while driving.
“They told me it was classed as not paying due care and attention and hit me with $173 [fine] and one demerit point,” he told ABC Radio Brisbane.
QPS has not confirmed whether or not the motorist was pulled over, but has said no fine was issued.
Police said it was important to remind drivers that distractions while driving could have serious consequences and attract significant penalties.
Distraction among Fatal Five
Queensland Police Superintendent David Johnson, from the Road Policing Command, told ABC Radio Brisbane that if a driver was not in control of a vehicle, or was driving without due care, they might be committing an offence.
Commonly misunderstood road rules:
- Roundabouts: Drivers approaching a roundabout must use their indicators when entering and turning left, right or making a U-turn, but not when travelling straight ahead. When exiting you must always indicate left just before you exit, unless it is not practical to do so
- Giving way to pedestrians: If a driver is turning left or right at an intersection, he or she must give way to any pedestrian crossing the road the driver is entering
- Mobile phones: A mobile phone can only be used while driving in Queensland if it’s being used hands-free, and you are not a learner or P1 licence holder under 25 years old
- Keeping left: On multi-lane roads with a speed limit of more than 80km/h and/or where there is a Keep Left Unless Overtaking sign displayed, motorists must not drive in the right-hand lane unless overtaking, turning right or making a U-turn, avoiding an obstacle or driving in congested traffic
- Fog light use: A driver is only permitted to use fog lights if driving in fog, mist or other atmospheric conditions that restrict visibility
“There are many people who consume drinks while driving and do it safely,” Superintendent Johnson said.
“For us to issue a fine, we have to look at the circumstances to see if the driver’s actions are causing risks to themselves or others.
“Driving without due care and attention was once put before court, but these days it’s a traffic infringement notice that is issued.”
Superintendent Johnson added that the same rules applied for eating at the wheel.
He said there was a range of offences for drivers who did not pay enough attention on the roads.
Driver distraction is considered one of the Fatal Five alongside speeding, drink driving, failing to wear seatbelts and driving while tired.
“Having a pet on their lap, driving the car with your knees, putting make-up on or getting changed at the wheel are all ways of being distracted at the wheel,” he said.
“If I saw someone drinking out of a bottle with a straw and they were staying in their lanes, observing what was happening around them, and had a quick drink and continued on, that would be fine.
“But it would concern us if the consequences of their actions caused injury or death to other road users.”
He said drivers needed to ask themselves the simple question, ‘Are you paying attention to the road and the conditions you are driving in?’