Even drunk drivers are not as dangerous as our ...

The Daily Telegraph

Saturday 23 March 2002
Even drunk drivers are not as dangerous as our ... Mobile phone pests


DRUNK drivers can stop faster in an emergency than sober drivers who are using their mobile phones, new British research has shown.

A study by the Transport Research Laboratory found drivers travelling at 113km/h took an average of 31m to stop.

But drivers using hand-held mobile phones took 45m and even those talking on a hands-free phone took an average of 39m.

Drivers who were just over the UK's legal drink-driving limit of .08 per cent stopped in an average distance of 35m. In NSW, the legal limit is a lower .05.

The study adds to a growing body of research about the dangers of mixing mobile phones and driving.

Australian research showed drivers were four to five times more likely to be in a serious accident if they were talking on a phone.

In NSW it is illegal to talk on a hand-held mobile while driving but hands-free models can be used.

Yesterday The Daily Telegraph caught five drivers on film at one spot in Double Bay in the space of 45 minutes flouting this law -- and endangering lives.

The drivers were making hand-held mobile phone calls while driving through the shopping centre in New South Head Rd.

Pedestrian Council of Australia chairman Harold Scruby called for tougher penalties for phone drivers talking on hand-held mobiles.

“This Easter in NSW the penalty for not wearing your seat belt is six demerit points and a $220 fine,'' he said yesterday.

“The same person can be talking on a mobile and only be fined $118, but not wearing your seat belt only puts you at risk, while talking on a mobile phone compromises the safety of everybody else as well.''

However, he said there was little point legislating against hands-free mobile use at this stage because there was no feasible way of policing such a law.

The British study, reported by the BBC, found the reaction times of drivers talking on hand-held mobile phones was about 50 per cent slower than under normal driving conditions.

And their reactions were 30 per cent slower than those of drivers just over the legal alcohol limit.

Mobile phone users also found it harder not to tailgate and to maintain a constant speed while driving.

NRMA chief Rob Carter said driving while talking on a hand-held mobile was clearly dangerous.

“Even using a hands-free mobile phone will split the attention of the driver and affect driver behaviour, including reaction times,'' he said yesterday.

“Long and complex hands-free mobile phone conversations also have a significant impact on driving ability.

“Motorists talking at length should slow down or pull over to prevent potential accidents.''
The British researchers studied a group of 20 volunteers using a driving simulator.

A recent survey by Telstra found one in 10 drivers had almost been involved in an accident while talking and driving.

Almost 40 per cent of those surveyed kept driving while making and receiving calls, while 20 per cent of phone users sent text messages while driving.


Dial-drivers 'worse than drink-drivers'

BBC News

Thursday 21 March 2002 - 23:55 GMT

Talking on a mobile phone whilst driving is more dangerous than being just over the legal alcohol limit, according to research.

Tests by scientists at the Transport Research Laboratory, have indicated that driving behaviour is impaired more by using a mobile phone than by being just over the legal alcohol limit.

Reaction times were, on average, 30% slower when talking on a hand-held mobile phone compared to being just over the legal limit and nearly 50% slower than under normal driving conditions.

Drivers were also less able to maintain a constant speed and found it more difficult to keep a safe distance from the car in front.

The study is likely to add credence to calls for people to be banned from using mobile phones whilst driving.

Slow reaction

On average it took hand-held mobile phone users half a second longer to react than normal, and a third of a second longer to react compared to when they were drunk, the study showed.

At 70 miles per hour, this half-second difference was equivalent to travelling an additional 46 feet (14m) before reacting to a hazard on the road.

The study, which was sponsored by insurer Direct Line, involved testing the reaction times and driving performance of a panel of volunteers using a driving simulator at the Transport Research Laboratory.

Janet Anderson, MP for Rosendale and Darwen, is currently trying to push a bill through which would ban the use of hand-held mobile phones while driving.

The second reading is expected to take place on 12 April.

Welcoming the report's findings, Ms Anderson said: "We must all recognise that driving and using mobile phones can kill. It takes less than a split second for a lapse in concentration to result in an accident.

"It must therefore be made crystal clear to drivers who insist on behaving in this way that they endanger the safety of the public generally, and their own safety too."
See also Sunday Herald Sun - Sunday 19 May 2002


Mobile phones and driving

There are around 16 million mobile phone users in Australia.More than 70% of households own one and they are used by 80% of the Australian population.

While mobile phones have made communications easier, they've proved to be a lethal weapon combined with driving.

A driver who uses a mobile phone is four times more likely to crash - 'run-off-the-road' crashes and 'rear end' crashes are the most common types of crashes associated with mobile phone usage.

This startling statistic cannot be ignored, yet it's likely that the involvement of mobile phones in crashes is underestimated, as the data collected from crashes does not routinely report on mobile phone use.

Driving while using a mobile phone can cause both physical and cognitive distraction. Specifically, using a mobile phone while driving can significantly impair a driver’s:

  • reaction time;
  • visual search patterns;
  • ability to maintain speed and position on the road;
  • ability to judge safe gaps in the traffic; and
  • general awareness of other traffic.

Mobile phone use also often involves associated tasks that may further distract the driver. These activities can include writing down phone numbers on a piece of paper whilst driving or writing down dates or notes in diaries. Sending a text message while driving is likely to be even more risky.

The new campaign

The TAC launched a new campaign in October 2004, including television and outdoor advertising.

The television advertisement shows a young female motorist reading an SMS message on her mobile phone and, as a result, colliding with a young boy crossing the road

The tagline for the advertisement reads: ‘even a moment’s distraction can lead to a lifetime of consequences - if you’re on the phone, get off the road’.

The Law

Victoria banned the use of handheld mobile phones while driving in 1998.   The law requires drivers to move their vehicles off the road and stop safely before using a handheld mobile phone. National and local legislation permits the use of hands-free phones.

The current penalty for driving while using a handheld mobile phone is a $141 on the spot fine and three demerit points.

Using a handheld mobile phone whilst driving, is the third most common on the spot driving offence behind speeding and the non-wearing of seatbelts.










Road Safety

South Australia – Department of Transport, Energy and Infrastructure


Campaign Background

This campaign is part of the Department of Transport and Urban Planning’s approved Road Safety Communications Overview for the financial year 1 July 2004 to 30 June 2005.

The incidence of using mobile phones while driving has increased by more than 50 per cent in two years. In 2001 police issued 3062 infringement notices for this offence. In 2003 the number of infringements issued was 4588. Research has shown that using a mobile phone while driving may be equivalent to driving with an illegal blood alcohol concentration of more than 0.08.             

Advertising Objectives

The objectives of the campaign are to:

  • Remind motorists of the introduction of demerit points for this offence, which took effect from 1 August 2004
  • Ensure the community is informed of the dangers of inattention while driving
  • Reduce road trauma in country regions and in young drivers, particularly males.
  • Target Audience
  • This campaign is aimed at all drivers but specifically those who drive as part of their employment and may need to do business by telephone. Young drivers, aged 17 – 24, are also targeted as they are over represented in the road toll and are heavy users of mobile phones.
  • Primary audience for this campaign includes:
  • Motorists
  • Heavy vehicle drivers


The Inattention commercial was aired during August 2004 to supplement a specific police enforcement campaign and to reinforce the introduction of demerit points if caught using a hand held mobile phone while driving. It is planned to use the commercial again at times of police enforcement, to reinforce the message to drivers.

Media Strategies

Three radio commercials were developed to increase awareness about the potential to have a crash if driving while using a hand held mobile phone. The commercials highlight the consequences of inattentive driving and encourage motorists to avoid the temptation of answering while driving.

Crash Course 1

This radio commercial exposes the risks and consequences of driving while using a hand held mobile phone. A young woman, driving using her hand held mobile phone, becomes distracted by her conversation and collides with another vehicle. The injuries appear serious to the frantic people near by. The key message of the commercial is “put it to the test (driving while using a hand held mobile phone) and the fine is $182 and three demerit points, or something much worse”.

Crash Course 2

A tradesman driving while using his hand held mobile phone is distracted by a conversation with his boss. Frustrated by time delays and distracted by the conversation, the driver’s van collides with another vehicle that would have been easily seen by an attentive driver. The key message is repeated: “put it to the test (driving while using a hand held mobile phone) and the fine is $182 and three demerit points, or something much worse”.

Let it ring

This radio commercial conveys the difficulty of answering a mobile phone while driving. It also conveys the sensibility of ignoring a ringing phone because in doing so drivers avoid the increased risk of not only crashing but also collecting a $182 fine and three demerit points.

Campaign: Listen (radio)

        Crash course 1 - (515 kb) 

        Crash course 2 - (515 kb) 

        Let it ring - (516 kb) 


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