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Should young drivers use mobile phones while driving?

By GC Law28 Feb 2014

Young Girl on Mobile Phone - G C Law Car Crash Compensation

Should young drivers use mobile phones (hand-held or hands-free) while driving?

At GC Law we have covered the use of mobile phones and their impact on fatal car crashes in previous articles. 

Given the fact that they are still a major factor in the cause of car accidents, particularly amongst the most at risk group of drivers (those aged 17 to 25), we thought that we would share some statistics with you about mobile phone use and driving. 

We hope that raising awareness of this issue will help in the education of not only young drivers but also their parents.

The law

It is illegal to use a hand-held mobile phone while driving in all states of Australia.

It is illegal to use your hand-held mobile phone while stationary but not parked (for example when stopped at traffic lights).  Learner drivers and P1 licence holders are not allowed to use a mobile phone while driving at all – not even with a hands free kit. It is also against the law for passengers of a P1 licence holder to use a mobile phone on speaker or hands free setting.

The facts

Driving is a complex activity.  The environment changes from moment to moment.  Drivers are required to perform multiple tasks simultaneously. Despite this, drivers still tend to engage in activities that distract them from the road, taking their mind and eyes off the road and their hands off the steering wheel. 

Studies suggest driver distraction is a contributing factor in up to 22% of accidents (and near accident) and 71% of truck accidents.  55% of all known sources of distraction are unavoidable.

Approximately one quarter of car accidents in Australia can be attributed to driver distraction.  Using a mobile phone while driving is distracting.  A driver using a mobile phone whilst driving – whether hand held or hands free – is four times more likely to have a serious car accident resulting in hospital treatment.

In 2011 a government survey found that 93% of Australian drivers own a mobile phone. Of these drivers, 59% of these drivers reported using their mobile phone while driving, however only 28% of drivers reported using a hands free kit.

It is not surprising to learn that young adults in Australia have the highest level of general mobile phone use.  60% of drivers aged between 18-24 admit to sending or receiving text messages while driving, compared with 30% of drivers aged between 25-39 years.

Using a mobile phone while driving is distracting in a number of ways.  Drivers are physically distracted when they pick up the phone, answer a call or type a message.  Visual distraction occurs when the driver’s eyes are taken off the road and focus on the phone.  Processing more than one piece of information at a time can cause cognitive distraction.

Text messaging while driving is especially dangerous.  Research has shown that inexperienced drivers spend four times as much time looking away from the road when texting compared to when they are not texting. 

Using a mobile phone when driving impairs the drivers’ ability to judge distance, speed, space and conditions. They have slower reaction times, speed variations and less controlled braking.

Factbase recommendation

There is strong evidence that using a mobile phone (including hands-free) has a significantly detrimental effect on the driving performance and crash risk of young drivers.  Therefore, despite limited knowledge of their effectiveness, restrictions on all mobile use while driving is justified during the learner and P1 licence stages.

If you or any member of your family or a close friend is involved in a car accident it is important to be fully aware of your rights and what compensation for personal injury you may be able to claim.

At GC Law we are personal injury experts and can help you assess your potential claim, you can even use our Free Case Review process to start your compensation claim.

For more information on car accident claims call us to speak to one of our lawyers on 1 300 302 318 or start a live chat session and talk with a GC Law lawyer today.

Additional Information on this subject can be found here