The popularity of mobile devices has had unintended and very dangerous consequences. Studies conducted in Australia and worldwide have proven that mobile communications whilst driving are linked to a significant increase in distraction, often resulting in injury and loss of life. This is true for all types of mobile communications, even the simple act of talking on the phone whilst driving (be it whilst holding a mobile phone or using it handsfree). However, without question, the most dangerous form of mobile communication while driving is texting.
Whilst there have been numerous studies looking at the effect of general mobile communications on driving habits and distractibility, there have been relatively few studies focusing specifically on texting and driving. This may be indicative of a general assumption that if talking on a mobile phone increases risk, then texting also increases risk, and probably more so.
A simulation study at Melbourne’s Monash University Accident Research Center provided strong evidence that retrieving and, in particular, sending text messages has a detrimental effect on a number of safety-critical driving measures. Specifically, negative effects were seen in detecting and responding correctly to road signs and detecting hazards, as well as those associated with time spent during which the driver’s eyes off the road. Of major concern is that text messaging had the greatest relative risk with drivers of trucks and heavy vehicles who were 23 times more likely to experience a safety-critical event when texting. It is not hard to imagine the damage that could be caused through the loss of control of a B-double semi-trailer on a major highway or freeway – truck accidents have devastating effects.
Several studies have attempted to compare the dangers of texting while driving with drink driving/driving under the influence. Research has shown that texting while driving slowed a driver’s reaction time more so than driving whilst under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Driver’s reaction times decreased by 37% when texting and driving, 27% during hands-free calls, 21% when under the influence of cannabis and 13% when drinking and driving at the limit of .080% BAC.
Drivers typically take their eyes off the roadway for an average of four out of six seconds when texting. When travelling at 89 km/h, a driver texting for 6 seconds is looking at the phone for 4.6 seconds of that time and travels the distance of a football field without their eyes on the road.
The dangers of mobile phone use whilst driving, and in particular texting and driving, are well known. Even so, it is alarming how often we witness this very behaviour. How often have you noticed whilst sitting at traffic lights that the vehicle in front is slow to take off because the driver is not paying attention and texting? How often, when following behind a vehicle, have you noticed it drifting from side to side because the driver is intermittently texting? How often have you been standing at an intersection and you have seen drivers who are holding a phone in their hand while holding the steering wheel or who are looking down at their lap or the console whilst driving? I would suggest too often. And even if you have only seen it once, you have seen it once too often.
We all need to be aware of the dangers of texting and driving. We need to not engage in this behaviour and to encourage others not to do so. We need to spread the message of the danger associated with texting and driving. The following video was a very graphic yet very effective means of spreading the message to unsuspecting moviegoers in Japan – we should all pay attention.
For more information you should telephone either Peter Burt or Clara Davies, specialist TAC Claims Lawyers of Burt & Davies, Level 11, 451 Little Bourke Street, Melbourne. They are both Accredited Personal Injury Lawyers who practice exclusively in transport accident compensation & TAC claims.
Telephone (03) 9605 3111 or freecall 1800 109 940
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