If you think talking or texting on a mobile phone while driving is dangerous, a new trend of taking selfies has emerged to further endanger riders’ lives.
A US study has found more than 15% of drivers say they take selfies while driving. And 5% “go live” while driving, possibly imitating James Corden’s enormously popular Carpool Karaoke.
The Simply Insurance study, based on United States Department of Transportation data and a survey of American 1430 drivers, found 88% use their phones while driving, which includes handsfree.
It may not be as big in Australia where it is reported that only 1.5% of Aussie drivers illegally use their phones.
However, those statistics could be much less than the reality.
In NSW, about 40,000 drivers are fined each year for illegal use of a mobile phone.
Yet in a one-month trial of just two fixed special detection cameras on the M4 motorway and Anzac Parade and one mobile device, more than 11,000 offences were recorded. (They were not fined during the trial and there was no breakdown on talking, texting or taking selfies.)
In the same month only 1999 NSW drivers received mobile phones fines.
The trial has now moved to a pilot program ending in April with no offence notices to be issued.
In the first 25 days of the trial, the cameras captured 20,125 instances of phone abuse, so clearly there are a lot of drivers not being caught … yet!
The cameras will be rolled out across the state later this year and we hope other states adopt them.
The problem is that many of the deaths occurring from illegal mobile phone use such as selfies go unreported, are “misdiagnosed” (possibly as speeding) or are categorised as distracted driving.
The US study found one in every four car accidents was caused by texting and driving. That does not include using the phone to make a call!
In Australia, crashes caused by mobile phones are placed in the distraction column.
From 2012-17 , there were 138 crashes attributed to phones in NSW, resulting in 10 deaths and 177 injuries. But were there really more?
How many crashes cause by mobile phones are properly investigated by police and not just added to the “speeding” column?
A NSW Roads and Maritime Services spokesperson admits “crash numbers are underreported due the difficulty of obtaining evidence of mobile phone use at crash scenes”.
And don’t think Aussies aren’t doing it, even though most support the tough penalties. In the US study, 94% of drivers support a ban on texting while driving, yet 98% claim they still do it.
So drivers seem to think it’s ok, so long as they get away with it.
However, it should be noted that US phone penalties are scant and low (see details further on in this article).
Motorcycle riders are particularly keen on increasing mobile phone penalties.
We are endangered by mobile phone use as motorcycles are more difficult to spot in a driver’s periphery vision when it is glued to a phone.
Drivers who illegally use a mobile phone while driving should have their licence suspended, says the Motorcycle Council of NSW chairman Steve Pearce.
NSW last year increased the penalty for illegally using a mobile phone while driving in from four to five demerit points following reports of drivers being fined for not only talking on their phones, but updating their social media profiles and taking selfies.
However, Steve says the MCCNSW believes that licence suspension for illegal mobile phone use should be mandatory.
The National Transport Commission amended the Australian Road Rules to make it illegal to touch a mobile phone at any time while driving or stopped in traffic, unless it is “secured in a mounting affixed to the vehicle” or “the phone does not require the driver, at any time while using it, to press anything on the body of the phone or to otherwise manipulate any part of the body of the phone”.
Most states have adopted this ruling.
Mobile phone fines vary across the nation:
- NSW $337 fine and 5 demerit points (double demerit points apply on public holidays);
- Queensland $391 and 3 points;
- Victoria $476 and 4 points;
- Western Australia $400 and 3 points (double demerit points apply on public holidays);
- South Australia $308, plus $60 Victims of Crime levy, and 3 points;
- Tasmania $300 and 3 points;
- Northern Territory $250 and 3 points;
- ACT $386 and 3 points (double demerit points apply on public holidays).
Fines around the world
Fines vary around the world from no fine in many Asian countries to thousands of dollars and licence suspensions in Canada.
New Zealand has a low $80 fine which matches their low fines for speeding. Consequently 3.5% of Kiwi drivers use their phone while driving compared with the reported 1.5% in Australia.
Almost half (24) of American states have no hand-held phone ban. Some states only issue fines if the driver is in a school zone or committing some other traffic offence such as speeding. Arizona and Montana even allow drivers to text!
The toughest measures in the USA are in California. The state has a $US150 fine (about $A205) for the first offence and more than $US250 (about $A345) for a second violation and one point.
Canada has a distracted driving offence which attracts a $1000 fine and three demerit points. A second conviction could mean a fine of up to $2000 and a seven-day licence suspension. A third offence could mean a fine of up to $3000 and a 30-day suspension.
Fines in Europe vary from less than €50 (about $80) and one point in eastern Europe to €420 (about $A675) in the Netherlands and up to six points in the UK.