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The price of not hanging up

The Sun-Herald

Sunday 14 September 2003

By ALEX MITCHELL
STATE POLITICAL EDITOR

PORTRAITS of four young people zipped in body bags in the morgue are the shock weapon in a road-safety message aimed at drivers using hand-held mobile phones.

“Of course the images are shocking," said Harold Scruby, chairman of the Pedestrian Council of Australia. “But then the road toll is shocking."

The photographs with the caption “Use your mobile phone while driving and you may lose more than your signal" are designed to curb the widening use of mobiles by motorists.

A recent Telstra survey found that almost one-third of Australia's motorists continue to use hand-held mobiles while driving even though they know it is dangerous and against the law.

“You see them doing it all the time and in the most cavalier fashion," Mr Scruby said.

“We want to tell them they are putting their own lives in danger as well as the lives of others.

“We are pushing the self-interest syndrome and saying, `See what can happen to you?’

Produced by leading ad agency Saatchi & Saatchi, the community service advertisements are also aimed at pressuring the NSW Government to toughen the laws on using mobile phones while driving.

“Everything we've tried so far has failed," said Mr Scruby. “Nothing seems to get through to some people."

Under current law the penalty for mobile phone use while driving is a $226 fine and the loss of three points.

Mr Scruby said the Roads Minister Carl Scully should consider equating mobile phone offences with low-range drink driving which would increase penalties to a $1100 fine and a three-month loss of licence.

He said that between 500 and 550 people will die on the roads in NSW this year and 20 times that number will be injured or maimed.

“When we went to war with Iraq not a single Australian life was lost but hundreds die on the roads and we seem to take it for granted," he said.

“There is an epidemic of mobile phone use out there and it is causing accidents and killing people."

He called on motorists to install hands-free phone sets in their vehicles or to pull over when making calls.

Saatchi & Saatchi also made the Chopper Read advertisements against drink driving which won the Golden Lion award at Cannes and three Australian awards.

CAPTION - LIVES IN DANGER: 'Use your mobile phone while driving and you may lose more than your signal' ... that's the blunt message of the new safety campaign.