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Have your say on regulating driver distraction

Selfies new scourge of road deaths Have your say on regulating driver distraction

Technology has outpaced road rules on driver distraction, leaving the current rules inadequate, difficult to police and confusing as they vary between state boundaries.

So, in the wake of a recent national summit on driver distraction, the National Transport Commission is calling for public input to tighten the rules.

Rather than seeking a technological solution, such as some method of switching off mobile phones and other devices when vehicles are in motion, they are investigating non-technological solutions.

The NTC has released a consultation regulation impact statement (RIS) seeking feedback on technology-neutral options to regulate driver distraction. Submissions close on 4 September 2019. Suggested solutions will be presented to state transport ministers in May 2020.

Driver distraction problems

The current national rules date back to 1999, when texting and calling were the most common features of a mobile phone.

Now drivers are updating their social media and even taking selfies while driving!Selfies new scourge of road deathsHave your say on regulating driver distraction

The current rules only preclude or limit the use of specific technology devices – mobile phones, visual display units and television receivers – while permitting their use as driver and rider aids.

However, distraction is not isolated to mobile phones and other portable devices, but also the growth of built-in car screens that include internet connection to apps that can distract drivers.

Another problem with current rules is that they are difficult to police.

One police officer told me they can have difficulty proving that a driver was holding a phone and not using voice commands.

Other problems include the differences between states in rules which allow or prohibit motorists to touch, cradle or hold devices. Motorists are left confused about the legalities of using their devices.

Cops mobile phone penalties day of actionHave your say on regulating driver distraction
Police patrol for mobile phone misuse

RACQ road safety officer Steve Spalding says driver distraction is “proving to be one of the most challenging issues of road safety in recent years”.

“With the ever-expanding use of smart phones, the problem is becoming even harder to deal with,” he says.

“We all know the rules and the risks should be self evident, and particularly the risk of causing serious injuries to vulnerable road users such as motorcyclists.

“The solution could be simple if all drivers complied with the law, eyes on the road, hands on the steering wheel and mind on the driving task.”

Distraction risks

Riders are all too aware of the problems with distracted drivers not looking for motorcycles.

The NTC says distraction is seen as “a significant road safety risk that is not as well understood as other risk factors such as drink-driving and speeding”.

Have your say on regulating driver distraction
Source: National Transport Commission

And while 79% of people agree that talking on a mobile phone while driving is dangerous, 21% still illegally use mobile phones for browsing the internet, taking photos, texting and accessing apps.

Studies have found that a task which takes a driver’s ‘eyes off the road’ for as little as two seconds can be particularly hazardous.

The NTC also cites studies that suggest the young and less experienced drivers as well as older drivers are the biggest problems.

They say young drivers lack driving skills to allow them to execute a secondary non-driving task, while older people find it difficult to share attention between two simultaneous tasks.

In Australia, distraction is a factor in 16% of injury crashes and a 2017 WA preliminary summary found that 28 fatalities (17%) were from inattention-related crashes, up more than 100% on the previous five-year average.


  1. My little 2012 Micra will make calls for me, will send a text for me, and will read incoming texts for me all without touching my phone so I have trouble understanding why people do not use this technology.

    As for updating social media or taking selfies, that just shows that they are not mature enough to be in charge of a deadly weapon and licenses should be removed until they are.

    1. You shouldn’t be doing any of those things you state your Micra will do. You might not have to touch the telephone, but attending to those secondary tasks means your brain is not 100% engaged with the task of driving, regardless of what you might think. Australian drivers are bad enough already, as this is one of the few places where people can be “taught” to drive by others (most often their parents) who can barely drive in the first place. Driving a motor vehicle is about much more than just being able to manipulate the controls. What is so damned important that you have to send or receive text messages during the short time you are driving and can’t wait until you stop? In my youth we didn’t even have telephones in the house and had to walk to a public telephone box. People need to get real about what their priorities and needs are.
      First offence – licence suspension.
      Second offence – 30 days in gaol.

      1. You might think that i cannot do that without paying attention, but I have to say I am very comfortable being able to drive while pushing one button i don’t have to look at and then talk, talking and driving we all do it and do it without causing our driving ability to suffer.

        I have been driving for 50 years and only one accident due to a young fellow turning across my path at the last second thinking he could beat me or perhaps he was looking at his phone who knows.

        So i will keep driving with my phone in the console using my car to make calls for me and text for me, just by talking.

        1. Yes, you are a fantastic driver (according to yourself), but any attention diverted to another task means your attention is not 100% on the task at hand. That is an inarguable fact.

          1. Fantastic driver, I doubt it, I am sure I am just lucky. But people have been talking to passengers while driving since cars were invented and I doubt it is a quantifiable cause of accidents.

            But you must also be a fantastic driver if you do nothing behind the wheel except give 100% of your attention do you pull over to put on your head lights and adjust the radio talk to a passenger or indeed touch a button.

            My guess is you do these things while driving just as we all do.

          2. I should add that the person in the lane next to you, or behind you with eyes off the road, is unlikely to be as highly skilled as you obviously are. The line has to be drawn somewhere. By definition, fifty percent of drivers are below average and the average in this country is already quite poor. I, too, have been driving the best part of fifty years. I also drive heavy vehicles and being able to see down into people’s motorcars and see what they are up to is, at times, quite frightening. Perhaps you could have a special endorsement on your driver licence that states “This person is so highly skilled and so great at multi-tasking that he is permitted to do what he likes while driving”, and instead of “P” plates you could wear “HS” plates.

  2. Good luck NTC on getting any meaningful public feedback on your report. I took a look at it with a view to participating but gave up due to the complexity of it.

  3. Education in the schools and a mandatory re-education program for those caught not paying attention to the job of driving safely.
    Not fines more fines and hand wringing.




    1. Does that include the ever increasing amount of traffic road signs we have to look at ? And are billboards not designed to attract the attention of drivers ? Now I agree anyone with a phone in their hands is an accident waiting to happen, but were do we draw the line and how do we stop distraction caused by everything in our environment.


  5. Allow helmet cams to be legal and be able to send proof into a hotline like the EPA on cigarette dropping out of windows so send them fines and then if they won’t to contest you can go to court but having video proof they won’t have a leg to stand on.

  6. There are some good comments above on this subject, most are right in their view & I do not detract from any of them.
    I do think there should be better “Education for ALL Road Users – Car Drivers, Truck Drivers, Motorcyclists & even Pedestrians”.
    The (NSW) Police have a fixation on “SPEED” while no other issue has 50% of the focus of speed. We hear about Police crackdowns on loud pipes, Helmet compliance but the list is vary sparse.
    Motorcyclists do seem and may well be over represented in the time and effort by Police to look, watch and inspect road users and this is reflected in the infringements written.

    The whole issue of road users doing non driver / rider related tasks while driving / riding is enormous. Education in the form similar to “Professional Development” for Doctors, Pilots, Accountants, Nurses & often the In-house or in your own time training so you can do your job better should be APPLIED ROAD USERS. There are Driver Knowledge Test and the Practical Driving Tests by each Australian State’s Roads Authority for those wanting to be Road Users and this is open to those with limited skills just getting through those tests. For the next forty years there is no requirement for any road user to gain better skills or to keep up with changes to road rules. When I gained my NSW Car Licence there was not one roundabout in NSW. As you read this I’ll bet that sometime recently you have been cut off and narrowly escaped having your vehicle involved in an incident where the fault would be attributed to the other road user on a roundabout in NSW.
    Why do you know the right way to use a roundabout and others don’t know?
    Why do you have to suffer with your vehicle off the road when another was at fault?

    Why do the rest of us have to continually have to pay & keep paying for the lack of knowledge and skills of road users that do not keep current with the skills and knowledge needed on the roads of today.

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