By Michael Giles

WE’VE all done it. Juggled the mobile phone in the car while driving to answer a call, when we haven’t been plugged into the hands-free.
Many people have also sent elaborate text messages while driving or looked up map directions on their smartphone.
And what’s worse, we’ve seen the evidence of this when on-coming cars weave across the centre line or cars in front of us ease on to the dirt or over the line.
In the latest Transport Accident Commission (TAC) promotion they quote figures that even a two-second glance at your phone means you’ll have travelled up to 28 metres completely blind.
Is it any wonder then that the road toll is on the way up again this year, rising an alarming 57.7 per cent, year-to-date, from 104 in July last year to 164 by July 11 this year?
A recent study, the Australian Naturalistic Driving Study, which observed 400 Victorian and NSW drivers for nearly two million kilometres, found that drivers are distracted for an incredible 45 per cent of the time!
That includes changing the station on the radio, pressing other buttons on the dash and adjusting your seatbelt but it also found that reaching for objects, including your mobile phone, accounted for 8 per cent of the distractions.
Anecdotally it’s higher than that.
And we know for a fact that it
is causing death and injury on the road.
Last week in the Korumburra Magistrates’ Court there was a case where a San Remo driver collided with an on-coming car and rolled down an embankment after reaching for something in the footwell.
It could so easily have led to another multiple fatality on the Bass Highway with the passengers in the other car seriously injured, including broken legs, broken ankles, facial injuries and a back injury for the offending driver.
And it’s likely that cyclists are increasingly becoming collateral damage of this situation with rider deaths up 250 per cent this year, with seven dead in Victoria, year-to-date, admittedly off a low base. But one extra death is too many.
The bottom line is, we have to change our behaviours.
If you are at any risk of answering your phone with your hands while driving, you should put it in the glovebox until you reach your destination, and don’t answer it! Whatever the problem is, it can wait.
Because the statistics say that sooner or later you’ll cause an accident and potentially death or injury on the road. If you don’t die or get injured yourself, you could go to jail.
In fact, drivers who do juggle their mobile phones, to answer calls or send text messages, should go to jail and harsher penalties are on the way.