Keep your eyes on the road – Australian mobiles industry calls for drivers to get smart with phone use

MEDIA RELEASE

 

25 October 2012

 

A new safety guide is released today showing drivers how to comply with New South Wales’ new mobile phone law using best practice and smartphone technology that allows drivers to keep their eyes on the road.
 
The peak industry body, the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA), released the new brochure, “Keep Your Eyes On the Road - how to reduce risk when driving and using a mobile phone,” to make NSW drivers aware of the new laws.
 
From November 1 under national road rules NSW drivers can touch their handset in a cradle to make or receive voice calls only. They cannot text, send emails, web browse or engage in social media. Drivers can also use Bluetooth provided they do not touch the handset.
 
AMTA Chief Executive Officer, Chris Althaus, said: “The most effective action drivers can take to reduce risks is to place their mobiles in approved cradles affixed to the dashboard or windscreen so they are looking at the road ahead and not glancing down when making a call.”
 
“Our advice to drivers is based on the latest real world driving research that shows taking your eyes off the road to reach for a phone, dial or read and write text messages significantly increases the risks of crashing or having to take evasive action to avoid a crash.
 
“We also recommend drivers use a Bluetooth hands-free device when driving and to use smartphone features like single-button dialling or voice-activated calling so they can keep their eyes on the road ahead.”
 
Mr Althaus said the mobile phone industry welcomes a national approach to driving laws and mobile phone use but said more effort was required to increase drivers’ awareness about the risks involved with various phone tasks and to clarify exactly how drivers can legally use their phones.
 
“Many mobile phone users are unaware of how they can more safely and legally use their phones while on the road and are unsure of the risks involved with various in-car distractions,” he said
 
“The latest naturalistic research using sophisticated in-car cameras, eye trackers, and sensors shows that talking and listening are not too dangerous in light traffic and good driving conditions, but taking your eyes off the road to dial or answer a mobile is very risky.”
 
“Texting, reading emails and engaging in social media can increase the risk of having an accident up to 23 times and reaching for a moving object, such as a mobile phone, increases the risk of a crash or near crash by 8.8 times.”
 
Mr Althaus said drivers should not accept or make calls if traffic, weather or road conditions make it unsafe to do so and drivers should always tell the person they’re speaking to that they’re driving and may end the call if driving conditions change.
 
Mr Althaus said any approach to tackle driver distractions must take account of a range of distractions and not single out mobile phones, which had been shown by Australian research to not be as distracting as car stereo tasks or child passengers.
 
He said NSW Government driving statistics showed that during an 18-month period from July 1, 2010, to December 31, 2011, there had been 4913 crashes caused by distractions.
 
Of these 77 per cent had been distracted by something outside the car, 16 per cent by in-car distractions, 6 per cent by other factors and 1 per cent by using hand-held mobile phones.
 
“The NSW statistics are supported by the national road toll figures that show Australian road fatalities have continued to decline despite the exponential rate of mobile phone ownership in the last decade,” Mr Althaus said.
 

AMTA’s safety tips for drivers include:

 
Never Text - it’s very dangerous and illegal: Texting drivers take their eyes off the road for 4.6 seconds over a 6-second interval. This means that at 60kph a driver is not watching the road for 75 metres or half the length of the MCG!
 
Always keep your eyes on the road: The clear lesson from the latest research is that keeping your eyes on the road is critical in reducing driving risks from mobile phone use. Talking and listening are not too dangerous on mobiles in light traffic and good driving conditions, but taking your eyes off the road to dial or answer is risky.
 
Buy, install and use a cradle for your phone: The Australian Road Rules require drivers to place their mobiles in approved cradles affixed to the dashboard so they are looking at the road ahead and not glancing down. Drivers can also use a Bluetooth provided they do not touch their handset. Study the road rules for hands-free mobile use in your State or Territory.
 
Use your smartphone’s features: Smartphones provide voice-activated dialling and automatic answering features to reduce the effort of making and receiving a call and allow drivers’ eyes to remain on the road at all times. You can install apps that limit a phone to calling and voice activation. Smart drivers use their handsets’ technology to reduce driving distractions.
 
Don’t always answer your mobile: Hands-free mobiles in cars are legal in all States and Territories. However, this does not mean it’s appropriate for drivers to use them at all times. Drivers should not make calls in heavy traffic, at intersections or in bad weather or poor road conditions. If a call is necessary or you consider it unsafe to answer at the time, don’t answer the call. Let it divert to voicemail or an answering service.
 
Download AMTA’s brochure on how to reduce risk when driving and using a mobile phone here
 
For more practical tips for drivers see www.amta.org.au
 
AMTA’s advice is heavily based on the naturalistic driving studies from the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute in the US. See their latest scientific research paper here
 
For more information contact Randal Markey, AMTA Communications Manager (02) 6239 6555 or 0421 240 550