Driving and mobile phones don’t mix!

October 1, 2012 at 11:17 am | Posted in GHS | 4 Comments
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There are many distractions that we face when we drive whether it is having a conversation with our passengers or trying to change the song on our car stereo. These distractions can have a huge affect on our driving ability, one main distraction that has gained popularity as technology has evolved is mobile phones. Although we may think that this is not a big deal and that we can cope with doing two things at once, the reality is that it can directly impeded our ability to drive safely and can lead to fatal road accidents. Below is some information that sheds light on the dangers of driving whilst using a mobile phone.

Physical distraction

When you drive while using a hand held or hands free mobile phone it can distract you both physically and mentally.

It can physically distract you as you have to take one hand off the steering wheel while using your mobile phone. Also, you have to take your eyes off the road to pick up and put down the phone so that you can dial a number (ROSPA, 2012). This means that basically you have to operate your car using just one hand. Even if you use a hands-free phone you are still distracted as you need to take your eyes off the road in order to find the phone and press the button that allows you to call (ROSPA, 2012).

Mental Distraction

When your using a hand-held or hands-free mobile phone you have to perform two different mental, cognitive tasks at the same time. Therefore, you have to devote your attention to using the phone and maintaining a telephone conversation whilst also operating the car and responding to road and traffic conditions (ROSPA, 2012).

The three types of distraction you can experience while driving using a mobile phone

Using a mobile phone while driving can lead to…

  • Riskier decision making: you may not be able to choose a safe gap between you and other cars as your judgement and concentration are affected
  • Slower reaction: you reaction time is slower when your using a phone and you may not be able to respond to traffic signals
  • Slower braking: break reaction time is slower, you break with more force and less control which means that your stopping distances are shorter
  • Tendency to wander off from your lane
  • Less likely to be alert to your surroundings: you don’t check mirrors as often as before and your less likely to know what’s going on around you

(DPTI, 2009)

Text messaging is also dangerous

When you send a text message while driving you are physically, visually and mentally distracted. In addition, when you send a text message your eyes are taken off the road for up to four times longer compared to when you are not text messaging.

Text messaging can cause you to…

  • Make wrong lane changes
  • wander off from your lane
  • fail to see road signs and hazards such as other vehicles, pedestrians, cyclists e.t.c.

(DPTI, 2009)

Text messaging and driving

Important Statistics

  • You are four times more likely to be involved in a car crash if you use a mobile phone while driving (DPTI, 2009)
  • According to an American Health Day Poll conducted in 2011, 37% of drivers have sent or received text messages while driving, 13% have surfed the net while driving
  • The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration discovered that more than three quarters of drivers were likely to answer calls on all, most, or some trips while driving. These drivers didn’t take into account traffic conditions when they decided to use their phones
  • In America there were 3,092 deaths due to distraction related accidents in 2012
  • 6000 deaths and half-a-million injuries are caused by distracted drivers every year in the US
  • The 30 to 39-year-old age group had the highest percentage of mobile phone use in fatal crashes
  • Fatalities associated with distracted drivers increased from 10% in 2005 to 16% in 2009
  • Talking on a mobile phone caused 25% of car accidents in the US
  • One-fifth of adult drivers in the US send text messages while driving
  • The Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co. did a study on dangerous driver behavior in 2007. The found that out of the 1,200 drivers surveyed 73% talk on mobile phones while driving and 19% text while driving. They also uncovered that motorists who use mobile phones while driving are four times more likely to get into car crashes
  • Texting while driving causes a 400% increase in time spent with eyes off the road
  • A study conducted by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute found that a driver dialing a mobile phone is 2.8 times more likely to get into a crash, a driver reaching for a mobile or any electronic device is 1.4 times more likely to get into a car crash and a driver talking on their mobile is 1.3 times more likely to get into an accident

(Edgar Snyder, 2012)

Older drivers at higher risk

“There is evidence that older drivers require more glances to instrument panels to retrieve necessary information, require more time to complete instrument tasks and require more time to move their eyes between the road and an instrument display. Therefore, using a mobile phone while driving may cause more problems for older drivers than younger ones (ROSPA, 2012, p. 3).”

Important studies on the use of mobile phones while driving

In one study 15 people were asked to drive on a driving simulation which was on a single carriageway rural road. There was traffic in front of and behind them and on-coming vehicles. While they were driving they were asked a series of questions on a hands-free phone. The result of the study showed that when they were using a mobile phone the drivers took an average of 200 meters longer to respond to a change in the speed limit. Also, using the mobile phone significantly decreased the driver’s awareness which resulted in them having very little awareness of what was going on around them (ROSPA, 2012).

A study conducted in the US found that the risk of being in a collision was four times higher when using a hand-held or hands-free phone. They came to this conclusion after examining the mobile phone records of drivers who were involved in a damage-only road accident (ROSPA, 2012).

Another study in America looked at 223 traffic accidents between 1992 and 1995 in the US. It came to the conclusion that the drivers who were using a mobile phone were nine times more likely to be involved in a fatal accident. Additionally, the report states that using a mobile phone while driving increases the risk of fatal accidents three times more than being drunk (ROSPA, 2012).

Over a four-month period accident reports in Taiwan recorded whether the driver had a mobile phone in their car at the time of the accident and whether it was being used. Out of the 3,000 road accidents 22% involved drivers who had a mobile phone in the car and 4% involved drivers who were using a mobile phone at the time of the accident. The same study also found that between August 2000 and March 2001, 2,407 traffic accidents were caused by drivers using mobile phones, these resulted in 14 deaths and 443 injuries. Nine deaths and 354 injuries occurred in accidents were the driver was using a hand-held phone and four deaths and 89 injuries happened in accidents where the driver was using a hands-free phone (ROSPA, 2012).

Fatal accidents involving mobile phones

  • March 1999: A driver died when his car swerved off the road and into a tree while talking on a mobile
  • March 1999, Scotland: Truck driver crashed into a car which led to the death of the occupant. The truck driver was speeding while using a hands free mobile phone
  • March 2000, UK: The driver was talking on a mobile phone while reading a map. His car hit the back of a lorry carrying gas cylinders. The driver died in the fire
  • June 2000: A truck driver hit a man standing by his parked car because he was writing a text message
  • November 2000, UK: A driver died when he pulled out in front of a police car that had its lights and sirens on. The driver was sending and receiving text messages minutes before the crash
  • August 2001: A driver died when she drove head-on into a truck. She was sending a text message before she lost control of her car

(ROSPA, 2012)

The reason why I based this blog post on driving while using a mobile phone is because I think this is a major issue when it comes to road safety. I also think the more awareness this issue is given, the better chance there is in changing the attitude and behavior of all drivers which may ultimately lead to less fatalities on the roads.


1) Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure (2009) Road Safety: Mobile Phone Use [online]. Available at: http://www.dpti.sa.gov.au/roadsafety/Safer_behaviours/inattention/mobile_phone_use [Accessed 26 September 2012].

2) Snyder, E. (2012) Cell Phone & Texting Accident Statistics [online]. Available at: http://www.edgarsnyder.com/car-accident/cell-phone/cell-phone-statistics.html [Accessed 25 September 2012].

3) The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (2012) The Risk of Using a Mobile Phone While Driving [online]. Available at: http://www.rospa.com/roadsafety/info/mobile_phone_report.pdf – 2010-01-22 [Accessed 25 September 2012].


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