Riding in Cars with Phones

As work gets busier, and more of a premium is placed on being accessible anywhere at any time, using a mobile phone while driving has become increasingly widespread. Indeed, it has become so widespread that it has grown into a serious safety issue.

Statistics show that a driver is around four times more likely to have an accident whilst using a mobile, the most common being rear-ends and running off the road. Using a mobile phone causes both physical and mental distraction. In particular, using a mobile phone impairs reaction time, visual search patterns, ability to maintain constant speed and position, ability to judge traffic movement, and general awareness. Trying to text while driving is especially dangerous. I imagine playing Tetris isn’t a good idea, either. The NSW police website also suggests keeping ‘conversations short’, and not engaging ‘in complex or emotional conversations’. Basically, avoid calling your telco’s helpline from the car.

Last year, about 40,000 drivers were fined for driving with their mobiles in use, making it the third most commonly fined driving offence behind speeding and not using a seatbelt. As a result, Victoria has seen the laws governing mobile phone usage tightened. Holding a phone – including resting it in your lap – is strictly prohibited. This is the case even if the vehicle is stopped at traffic lights. Mobiles may only be used via a commercially designed holder, which does not require the driver to physically interact with the device. The penalty is a $234 on- the-spot fine and the loss of three demerit points (four in a school zone). Learner and P1 probationary drivers are forbidden to use a mobile phone whilst driving under any circumstances, including handsfree.