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The Use of Mobile Phones While Driving in Western Australia

Under the Road Traffic Act 1974 in Western Australia or the Road Traffic Code 2000, distraction in itself is not classified as an offence while driving. However, distracted drivers are more likely to commit other traffic offences such as running a red light, speeding and incorrect lane changes. These could all cause serious accidents and result in charges being laid.

Mobile phone use – changes in the law

Changes made to the law in relation to using mobile phones while driving and types of visual display units became law on 1st March 2011. These changes have provided clarification when it comes to use of a mobile phone for all the variety of functions which text messaging, emailing, video messaging and using a GPS. However, it is against the law while driving to use a mobile phone and the penalty is a fine of $400 plus 3 demerit points. It is also unlawful to drive a vehicle with a television receiver or other visual display unit on if at least part of the screen’s image can be viewed by the driver. If caught the penalty is a fine of $100 fine as well as 3 demerit points.

The effects of mobile phone use on driving

Research has discovered that holding a conversation on a mobile phone is more distractive than talking with a passenger. This can lead to any one of the following driver errors:

  • inability to stay in the right lane;
  • inability to maintain a safe speed;
  • inability to react promptly to unexpected events;
  • missing out traffic signals;
  • reduction in field of view;
  • getting too close to vehicle in front;
  • limiting driver awareness of road conditions.

These alterations in driver attention due to mobile phone use results in a four times greater chance of being involved in a crash than a driver who is not distracted. As a result of these impacts on driving performance, the use of a mobile phone while driving increases the risk of being involved in a crash by up to 4 times.

Driver distraction statistics

Mobile phone use is one type of driver distraction which has increased in the last 20 or more years and has caused concern for legislators and has resulted in a number of studies conducted on the general issue of driver distraction. As a result It is estimated that distractive driving plays a significant role in 32% of the total number of road accident deaths and severe injuries in Western Australia from 2005 to 2007. 33% of these distractions appear to be something outside of the vehicle while up to 20% seem to be related to the driver’s handling of technology.

Types of accidents when distracted

Of the types of accidents most likely to take place when a driver is distracted the majority seem to be rear end collisions, involve a single vehicle and occur at night. Drivers over 55 and young drivers are most vulnerable to the impact of distractions. These are considered to be related to delayed reaction times in older people and lack of knowledge of driving in young people.

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