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Drivers ignore the risk of mobile phone use

A George Institute road safety study has revealed an alarmingly high rate of mobile phone use amongst Australian drivers. Published in the Medical Journal of Australia this week, the survey conducted in NSW and WA found that 60% of drivers use a mobile phone whilst behind the wheel, resulting in crashes and negligent driving.

Almost 3 million drivers across the two states use a phone while driving. Men, younger drivers and metropolitan residents were found to be the worst offenders. In addition to talking on the phone 12% of drivers admit to writing text messages, while among young drivers, over 30% write text messages while on the road. Young drivers were almost five times more likely than older drivers to use a phone while driving.

The Australian public are not getting the message that mobile phone use whilst driving is a dangerous activity. The risk of a crash increases four-fold when using a mobile phone, irrespective of whether you are using a hand-held or a hands-free device. Based on the results of our study an estimated 45,000 drivers have crashed while using a mobile phone, and over the past year more than 145,000 drivers have experienced a near miss due to talking on the phone, said Dr Suzanne McEvoy, Senior Research Fellow at The George Institute.

Although the use of hand-held mobile phones while driving is illegal, almost 40% of drivers continue to use a hand-held phone while driving. Seventy percent of drivers felt that they were unlikely to be caught by police for using a hand-held phone while driving.

Drivers are aware of the law against hand-held mobile phones, but believe that enforcement is quite low. These data clearly demonstrate the need to enhance enforcement of this legislation. However, given that hands-free devices do not necessarily reduce the risk, drivers should limit all phone use while driving Dr McEvoy added.

Research by The George Institute into the broader issues of dri
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Contact: Emma Orpilla
eorpilla@george.org.au
61-299-934-592
Research Australia
11-Dec-2006


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