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Put the phone away


In what has been a terrible year for road trauma, new data from the Transport Accident Commission has revealed that apps are the biggest distraction to people who use their phones while driving.

Last week the TAC has released findings from its latest Road Safety Monitor, a survey of 2492 Victorians, which showed almost half of people who admitted to using a mobile phone while driving were using apps.

Fifty-two per cent of respondents said they used a mobile phone in their hands while driving and, of those people, a majority (45 per cent) were interacting with an app.

A quarter of respondents who reported hand-held mobile phone use said they ‘made or received a call’ (26 per cent) or ‘sent or read a text message’ (25 per cent).

Respondents also reported using apps behind the wheel at a higher frequency, with just over a quarter admitting to doing so ‘sometimes’ or ‘most of the time’, nearly three times more often than making or receiving a call.

TAC Chief Executive Officer Tracey Slatter said the risks of driving while distracted were indisputable, and it was concerning that so many people were still picking up their phone while driving.

“We’ve seen a devastating increase to the number of people killed on our roads and each one of those deaths was avoidable, we need people to put the phone away and play their part in making our roads safe,” Ms Slatter said.

“Driving a car is a task that requires our full attention and if you’re looking at your phone while behind the wheel, you’re essentially driving blind,” she said.

“If you know that you may be tempted, put the phone in the boot, activate the do not disturb function, set your map and playlist before you leave; nothing is more important than your life and the lives of the people you’re sharing the road with.”

The TAC has also launched a new social media series ‘Not Just a Bad Look’, with three short videos highlighting the consequences of using mobile phones while driving.

Minister for Roads and Road Safety Melissa Horne said findings from the TAC Road Safety Monitor would help inform key government actions on road safety.

“This is important advice to government as we work towards refreshing the road safety action plan, to address the terrible levels of road trauma we are seeing this year,” Ms Horne said.

At the time of writing, 177 people have been killed on Victorian roads this year – 34 more than at the same time in 2022.

Distracted driving is a major factor in road trauma, and drivers are 10 times more at risk of crashing if they are using their phone, while taking your eyes off the road for two seconds or more doubles your crash risk in a 50km/h zone.

The Victorian Government earlier this year increased the penalties for using a mobile device while driving to a $577 fine and four demerit points.

New mobile phone and seat belt wearing detection cameras have also been introduced in Victoria to reduce road trauma and encourage safe choices.
A TAC public education campaign is supporting the cameras and informing Victorians of the penalties that have applied since July 1, after an initial three-month advisory period.

26 per cent of respondents also reported deliberately exceeding the speed limit by 10km/h or more, while 64 per cent said they had done so by 3 km/h or more.