Driving tips to keep your eyes on the road when using mobile phones this Xmas

The Australasian College of Road Safety (ACRS), the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA) and the Federal Parliamentary Secretary for Infrastructure and Transport, Catherine King, are urging motorists to keep their eyes on the road and not misuse mobile phones this Christmas/New Year.


The ACRS and AMTA said the advice is based on the latest research from Dr Tom Dingus of the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, who recently told road safety experts in Australia that the real key to significantly improving safety is for drivers to keep their eyes on the road and avoid mobile phone tasks, such as manual dialling, that require drivers to draw their eyes from the roadway.


AMTA Chief Executive Officer, Chris Althaus, said the most effective action drivers could take to reduce risks is to put their mobile phone in a cradle or use a Bluetooth hands-free to make calls when driving and to use single button dialling functions or voice-activated calling so they can keep their eyes on the road ahead.


Drivers can take some simple steps to reduce risk:


Never text – It’s very dangerous and illegal: Dr Dingus’ research using sophisticated in-car cameras to track drivers over 3 million kilometres or 43,000 hours of driving data found drivers taking their eyes off the road to write or read text messages have up to 23 times greater risk of crashing or having to take evasive action to avoid a crash. The same applies for drivers emailing or engaging in social media. Texting drivers take their eyes off the road for 4.6 seconds over a six second interval, which means that a 60kph a driver is not watching the road for 75 metres – 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 to reducing driving risks from mobile phone use. 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 risky.


Buy, install, and use a cradle for your phone: Study the road rules for hands-free mobile use in your State or Territory. AMTA strongly recommends that drivers place their mobiles in commercially designed and manufactured cradles or holders and fix them to the dashboard or windscreen (provided they do not obscure vision) so they are looking at the road ahead and not glancing down. Drivers can also use Bluetooth provided they do not touch the handset.


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 also install apps that limit a phone to calling and voice activation. Smart drivers use their handsets’ technology to reduce driving distractions. Manually dialling a mobile substantially increases the risk of drivers having a crash or near crash by 2.8 times.


Don’t always answer your phone: 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 unnecessary or you consider it unsafe to answer at the time, don’t answer the call. Let it divert to voicemail or an answering service.


The President of the Australasian College of Road Safety (ACRS), Lauchlan McIntosh, said it was not appropriate to use legal hands-free kits at all times and in all driving conditions.


“Drivers should give full attention to driving and recognise that many factors require a driver to be alert, including other road users, children, traffic and weather conditions,” he said.


“We know Christmas is a busy time on the roads so making a safe journey for yourself and others should be your most important call. Immediate contact with friends on the phone while in the car might seem valuable, however, seeing them alive and well is more important.”


Mr Althaus said smart drivers used the features on their smartphones to minimise the need to cast their eyes from the road ahead.


“The huge uptake of smartphones in Australia gives drivers the ability to use advanced features such as voice-activated dialling so they do not have to look away from the roadway when making calls,” he said.


“The mobiles industry supports diligent police enforcement of hand-held and texting bans in Australia. If drivers want to reduce risks and avoid substantial fines they need to buy and install a cradle or Bluetooth hands-free kit.


“A cradle or hands-free kit would make an inexpensive, but potentially lifesaving family gift before you head off on holiday.”


Ms King encouraged drivers to stick to the basics, use commonsense, avoid drinking, keep to the speed limit, take regular breaks, wear seatbelts and do not misuse mobile phones.

“If you are driving long distances make sure you are well-rested before you depart, avoid driving when you would normally be sleeping and allow plenty of time to get to your destination,” she said. “If you overindulge and are feeling the effects, do not drive.


“These basic driving rules will greatly reduce the possibility of a serious crash and will mean we all get to enjoy the Christmas period safely, together with our loved ones.”


For more information contact:


Randal Markey, AMTA, 0421 240 550

Lauchlan McIntosh, ACRS, 0418 424 886

Peter Dwyer, Parliamentary Secretary’s Office, 0409 866 054