There has been a surge in Gold Coast drivers being caught by police using their phones while driving.

Motorists are still using their phone while driving

The number of people caught using their phone while driving increased in 2013 by 21% and this alarming statistic is set to rise again in 2014, despite road users being well aware of the risks involved in using their phone at the wheel. Instead, it seems many drivers are continuing to ignore the risk of distracted driving and have become dangerously obsessed with checking and using mobile phones on the road.

Distracted drivers are a risk

Distracted driving is a serious threat to all road users, not just drivers. However, some drivers do not take this risk seriously enough. This is evidenced by social media websites now containing many photos, under hashtags such as #drivingselfie, highlighting the level to which social media users have become unaware, or without concern, of the significant risk they are subjecting both themselves and other road users to. Drivers on the Gold Coast have not only been caught by police taking photos while driving, but also updating social media statuses, checking email, reading websites, watching YouTube videos, and in some cases have been bidding to online auctions, such as eBay.

Motorists need to be alert

While the urge to check your phone while driving may be overwhelming, it is important to remember that distracting yourself on the road is one of the most needlessly dangerous things you can do while driving. Even the most experienced drivers will significantly increase their risk of being involved in a car accident when taking their eyes away from the road, even for a few seconds.

Put simply, checking your phone while driving is like driving with a blindfold.

In the time it takes you to glance at a text message when driving on a highway, you will blindly travel 28 metres before returning your eyes to the road. This means that, even if you are only reading a text message for four seconds, you have already travelled the length of a football field. Furthermore, it is a well known fact that being distracted while driving also reduces reaction time, which ultimately affects your ability to both anticipate and avoid road hazards.

In addition to having a significant effect on driver visibility, using a mobile phone when driving also means a driver will need to physically take their hands off the wheel and their minds off the task at hand. Both the physical and cognitive effect of checking your phone while driving significantly increases the risk of being involved in a road traffic accident, with studies suggesting drivers are four times more likely to be involved in a crash when using a mobile phone.

When driving in the car put your phone out of sight

The solution to this risk is simple. When you are in your car, leave your phone on silent, or switch it off, and do not touch your phone again until you are at the end of your journey. No matter how tempting it may be to use your phone on the road, or while stationary at red lights, no phone call, text, or website is more important than the safety of yourself, the persons in your vehicle, and your fellow road users.

If you must make or receive a call, pull over to the curb when it is safe to do so, place the car in park with the hand break on, and then use your mobile phone. However, best practice while driving is to not use your phone at all until you have reached your destination.

Turner Freeman Lawyers urges all drivers to keep our Gold Coast roads safe and take steps to reduce this rising trend in our community.

Further information on mobile phones and driving can be found at the Queensland Department of Transport and Main Roads website.