1) Driver inattention contributes to a quarter of all crashes
2) Using a phone while driving increases your chance of an accident by four times
3) The chance of a crash doubles for every second spent texting
4) It’s illegal to use a hand held phone while driving
(Source: Monash University Accident Research Centre)
Mobile phones are a frequent source of distraction while driving. Nearly a third of drivers admit to using hand-held phones while driving, and a similar proportion texting behind the wheel.
Why do we do it?
We’re well aware of the risks, so why do we do it? Part of the problem is the perception held by most drivers that they are more competent than the average driver. It’s also very tempting to just ‘make a quick call’ or ‘send a short text’ when on the road.
What are the alternatives?
One option to remove the temptation altogether is to turn off the phone when in the car, or put it somewhere inaccessible. However, we now spend so much time in our cars that it’s becoming more and more important to keep connected – so how can we do that more safely?
When it comes to phone calls, here are some guidelines:
- Avoid unnecessary calls – let it go through to voicemail and hold off making non-urgent calls
- Only use a hands-free phone that is set up and working before you start driving
- Keep conversations short and don't engage in complex or emotional conversations
- Tell the person on the other end that you are driving and may have to end the call
- Never send or read text messages while driving
- End the call if it is distracting you from driving
Hands Free Car Kits
A professionally installed hands-free kit for your mobile phone is the safest way to make and receive calls on the road. With these systems you are able to make and receive calls without taking your eyes off the road or your hands off the wheel. Features to look for are:
- A car phone holder, or cradle to hold your phone securely (many of these can also charge your phone too)
- Steering wheel control
- Syncing with your phone contacts to allow for easy dialling
- A display to show who’s calling so you can choose to answer or ignore a call
- Integration with car audio system and a separate microphone (for clarity and to facilitate voice dialling)
- Automatic muting of any music when a call is made or received
- Playback of your phone’s music collection through your car stereo (not a safety feature but a very nice feature to have!)
Many of today’s smart phones have voice recognition to provide for hands-free calls. It’s a great feature to have, but some systems work better than others. There are also many apps available that offer voice recognition features – for iOS, Android, Blackberry and more.
The most well known is Siri, introduced by Apple with the iPhone 4S, and it works a treat in correctly understanding and actioning your voice commands.
Here are some links to sites with more information on mobile phones and driving:
NRMA – Texting While Driving http://www.mynrma.com.au/motoring/road-safety/texting.htm
NSW RTA – Penalties for Mobile Use http://www.rta.nsw.gov.au/roadsafety/driverdistractions/index.html
TAC Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7OUtGSRItUc
Australian Government Dept of Infrastructure and Transport Report: In-car distractions and their impact on driving activities: http://www.infrastructure.gov.au/roads/safety/publications/2010/pdf/rsgr_2010001.pdf