Phone use and crashes while driving: a representative survey of drivers in two Australian states

Suzanne P McEvoy, Mark R Stevenson and Mark Woodward
Med J Aust 2006; 185 (11): 630-634.


Objective: To explore the use and effects of using mobile phones while driving.

Design: Cross-sectional survey.

Setting: New South Wales and Western Australia, 20 October to 7 November 2003.

Participants: 1347 licensed drivers aged 18 to 65 years. Data were weighted to reflect the corresponding driving population in each state.

Main outcome measures: Mobile phone use while driving (hand-held, hands-free and text messaging); adverse effects of use.

Results: While driving, an estimated 57.3% ± 1.5% of drivers have ever used a mobile phone and 12.4% ± 1.0% have written text messages. Men, younger drivers and metropolitan residents were more likely to use a phone while driving and to report a higher frequency of use. Enforcement of hand-held phone restrictions was perceived to be low (69.0% ± 1.5%) and an estimated 39.4% ± 2.1% of people who phone while driving use a hand-held phone. Half of all drivers (50.1% ± 1.6%) did not agree with extending the ban to include hands-free phones. Among drivers aged 18–65 years in NSW and WA, an estimated 45 800 ± 16 466 (0.9% ± 0.3%) have ever had a crash while using a mobile phone and, in the past year, 146 762 ± 26 856 (3.0% ± 0.6%) have had to take evasive action to avoid a crash because of their phone use.

Conclusions: Phone use while driving is prevalent and can result in adverse consequences, including crashes. Despite legislation, a significant proportion of drivers continue to use hand-held mobile phones while driving. Enhanced enforcement is needed.

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  • Suzanne P McEvoy1
  • Mark R Stevenson2
  • Mark Woodward3

  • The George Institute for International Health, Sydney, NSW.



The study was funded by the Motor Accidents Authority of NSW. Suzanne McEvoy received a National Health and Medical Research Council postgraduate public health scholarship. We are grateful for the advice provided by Dr Ann Williamson at the NSW Injury Risk Management Research Centre.

Competing interests:

None identified.

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