While the law provides for the making and receiving of phone calls while driving, a driver’s attention is still diverted from the driving task while doing so.
The safest option is to choose to turn your mobile phone off while driving. If you need to have your phone switched on while driving it is recommended that calls not be made while driving, and that all phone calls received be limited to short, essential calls.
New laws from 1 March 2011
Changes to the laws regarding the use of mobile phones and visual display units while driving came into effect on 1 March 2011. The changes help clarify the term ‘use’, and address questions about the use of mobile phones which have other capabilities (e.g. text messages, emails, video messages, GPS, etc.). For more information on the changes to the laws, please see the frequently asked questions below.
Frequently Asked Questions
The Effects of Mobile Phone Use on Driving
Research has found that talking on a mobile phone is more distracting than holding an intelligent conversation with a passenger.
Collectively, a number of studies have shown that using a mobile phone while driving can:
- impair a driver’s ability to maintain the correct lane position
- impair a driver’s ability to maintain an appropriate and predictable speed
- result in longer reaction times to detect and respond to unexpected events
- result in drivers missing traffic signals
- reduce the functional visual field of view which, in turn, has been shown to be associated with an increase in crash involvement
- result in shorter following distances to vehicles in front
- result in drivers accepting gaps in traffic streams that are not large enough
- increase a driver’s mental workload, resulting in higher levels of stress and frustration
- encourage drivers to look straight ahead rather than scanning around the road ahead
- reduce a driver’s awareness of what is happening around them in time and space.
As a result of these impacts on driving performance, the use of a mobile phone while driving increases the risk of being involved in a crash by up to 4 times.
There is also significant evidence that the use of a hands-free mobile phone while driving is no safer than using a hand-held phone.
Mobile phone use also often involves associated tasks that may further distract a driver. These include writing down phone numbers while driving or writing down dates and notes in diaries.
Sending a text message is even more distracting than talking on a mobile phone.
Curtin-Monash Accident Research Centre has developed a Using Mobile Telephones while Driving fact sheet which describes the current situation in Western Australia and presents the latest evidence on the crash risk of using a mobile phone while driving.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has published a research report on the use of mobile phones while driving, in response to concern among policy makers that this potential risk to road safety is increasing rapidly as a result of the exponential growth in the use of mobile phones more generally in society. It aims to raise awareness about the risks of distracted driving associated with mobile phone use, and to present countermeasures that are being used around the world to tackle this growing problem.
You can download the report from the WHO website.