Fatal Distraction as Drivers Prioritise Phones over Safety

Fatal Distraction as Drivers Prioritise Phones over Safety
A man writes a text message on his mobile phone whilst driving in traffic in London, England on June 24, 2003. (Photo by Bruno Vincent/Getty Images)
Steve Milne

A South Australian Police (SAPOL) operation has found that twice as many drivers were caught using their mobile phones last week as compared to a week in January.

Operation Fatal Distraction, conducted statewide from March 21 to 27, focused on motorists committing distraction-based offences related to mobile phone use.

During the seven day period, 257 motorists were detected reading messages, using social media, or engaging in other phone-related distracting behaviour while driving, compared to 112 drivers doing the same when the operation was conducted in January.

This comes after SAPOL detected 4,595 motorists using their phones while behind the wheel in 2021, with 24 drivers losing their lives and 203 being seriously injured in crashes where distraction was a contributing factor.

Officer in Charge of the Traffic Services Branch, Superintendent Bob Gray, called the results alarming and frustrating.

“Drivers need to realise that using a mobile phone while driving can have very serious consequences, not only for those who use them but also for other road users,” he said.

“Too many drivers think it is acceptable to send a quick text message or check their social media while driving or while they are waiting at traffic lights because they are not moving, but it is not.

"Drivers need to pay attention to the road and their surrounds at all times to respond quickly to changes in traffic and to drive safely," he said.

Research cited by SAPOL shows that dialling, texting, and talking on a mobile phone while driving can result in riskier decision making, reduction in drivers' ability to judge distances, slower reaction times, speed variations, and less controlled braking.

In addition, drivers distracted by mobile phone users are more likely to wander from their lane and be less aware of their surroundings, spending less time checking mirrors and monitoring traffic, particularly when in deep conversation.

Although the use of a hands-free kit makes driving while using a phone legal and reduces the level of physical and visual distraction to the driver, a high level of cognitive distraction remains, and motorists are four times more likely to be involved in a crash when using a mobile phone, regardless of whether it is hands-free.

Superintendent Gray asked all drivers to make responsible choices and ignore their phones while driving, or at least pull over if the matter really can't wait.

Steve is an Australian reporter based in Sydney covering sport, the arts, and politics. He is an experienced English teacher, qualified nutritionist, sports enthusiast, and amateur musician. Contact him at steve.milne@epochtimes.com.au.