Mobile phone usage while driving has long been reported as dangerous. Studies in the UK and America have reported mobile phone usage to causing as many as one in four car accidents. That’s 25% of all accidents involving improper use of a mobile phone in some way.
In Australia, distraction has been identified as a contributing factor in 22% of car accidents and a staggering 71% of truck accidents. It’s also been identified as a contributing factor in 46% of ‘near crashes’. Experts believe that using a mobile phone while driving greatly impacts your ability to concentrate on driving. However despite this, a recent Queensland study showed that 25% of drivers still use their hand-held mobile phones while driving on a regular basis. A further 14% reported using their phones to text while driving. Another study by the Australian government in 2011 found that 59% of mobile phone users in Australia (93% of the Australian drivers reported owning a phone) used their phone while driving. Of these, only 28% reported using a hands-free car kit. Perhaps predictably, the highest level of mobile use while driving come from the youngest drivers, aged 18-24.
Some believe that using a hands-free car kit, where you can talk on the phone without actually touching your mobile phone, is safe. Some studies do show that it’s safer than placing your phone to your ear. However, experts argue that it is not just the physical use of your hands on the phone that causes the danger. As well as physical and visual distraction caused when you reach for your phone, talking on the phone can cause a cognitive distraction by involving you in a complex discussion while trying to navigate driving conditions. Unlike when you are talking to a passenger in the car, the person on the other end of the phone cannot see what conditions you are driving in and adjust the conversation accordingly.
In Australia it’s illegal in all states and territories to use a hand-held mobile phone at all when driving, or when your car is stopped but not parked. It’s also illegal to use a hands-free system if it causes you to lose proper control of the car. L and P1 drivers are not permitted to use any hands-free system at all.