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.
- 1. Batey R. Car phones: hazardous [letter]. The Sydney Morning Herald 1988; 23 Jun: 16.
- 2. Allen Consulting Group. Australian mobile telecommunications industry. Economic significance. Report to Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association. Melbourne: Allen Consulting, 2005. http://www.amta.org.au/default.asp?id=28 (accessed Nov 2006).
- 3. Australian Transport Council. Australian road rules. Sydney: National Road Transport Commission, 1999.
- 4. Taylor D McD, Bennett DM, Carter M, Garewal D. Mobile telephone use among Melbourne drivers: a preventable exposure to injury risk. Med J Aust 2003; 179: 140-142. <MJA full text>
- 5. Consiglio W, Driscoll P, Witte M, Berg WP. Effect of cellular telephone conversations and other potential interference on reaction time in a braking response. Accid Anal Prev 2003; 35: 495-500.
- 6. Hancock PA, Lesch M, Simmons L. The distraction effects of phone use during a crucial driving maneuver. Accid Anal Prev 2003; 35: 501-514.
- 7. Strayer DL, Drews FA, Johnston WA. Cell phone-induced failures of visual attention during simulated driving. J Exp Psychol Appl 2003; 9: 23-32.
- 8. Hosking S, Young K, Regan M. The effects of text messaging on young novice driver performance. Monash University Accident Research Centre Report 246. Melbourne: MUARC, 2006. http://www.monash.edu.au/muarc/reports/rpts06.html (accessed Oct 2006).
- 9. McEvoy SP, Stevenson MR, McCartt AT, et al. Role of mobile phones in motor vehicle crashes resulting in hospital attendance: a case-cross-over study. BMJ 2005; 331: 428-430.
- 10. Redelmeier DA, Tibshirani RJ. Association between cellular telephone calls and motor vehicle collisions. N Engl J Med 1997; 336: 453-458.
- 11. McEvoy SP, Stevenson MR, Woodward M. The impact of driver distraction on road safety: results from a representative survey in two Australian states. Inj Prev 2006; 12: 242-247.
- 12. Woodward M. Epidemiology: study design and data analysis. 2nd ed. Boca Raton: Chapman and Hall/CRC Press, 2005.
- 13. Victorian Government. Victoria’s new graduated licensing system [website]. http://www.arrivealive.vic.gov.au/c_youngGLS_1.html (accessed Oct 2006).
- 14. Troglauer T, Hels T, Christens PF. Extent and variations in mobile phone use among drivers of heavy vehicles in Denmark. Accid Anal Prev 2006; 38: 105-111.
- 15. Sullman MJM, Baas PH. Mobile phone use among New Zealand drivers. Transport Res F Traffic Psychol Behav 2004; 7: 95-105.
- 16. Beirness DJ, Simpson HM, Desmond K. The road safety monitor 2002: risky driving. Ottawa, Ontario: Traffic Injury Research Foundation, 2002. http://www.trafficinjuryresearch.com/publications/pub_details.cfm?intPubID=156 (accessed Oct 2006).
- 17. Lamble D, Rajalin S, Summala H. Mobile phone use while driving: public opinions on restrictions. Transportation 2002; 29: 223-236.
- 18. Wilson DH, Starr GJ, Taylor AW, Dal Grande E. Random digit dialling and Electronic White Pages samples compared: demographic profiles and health estimates. Aust N Z J Public Health 1999; 23: 627-633.
- 19. Lajunen T, Summala H. Can we trust self-reports of driving? Effects of impression management on driver behaviour questionnaire responses. Transport Res F Traffic Psychol Behav 2003; 6: 97-107.
Publication of your online response is subject to the Medical Journal of Australia's editorial discretion. You will be notified by email within five working days should your response be accepted.