Awareness deficiencies prompted by mobile phone use is escalating incidents of accidents on roads Phil Brooks, Chief Inspector, Stakeholder Relations Manager, NSW Police has told logistics giant, Linfox.
The consequences of driver distraction on the road are deadly with more than half of distractions now known to be a factor in an incident that could have been avoidable.
Queensland University of Technology has found that driver distraction is a contributing factor in 78 per cent of car crashes and 65 per cent of near crashes.
Chief Inspector Brooks told Linfox that driving requires 100 per cent engagement with the task.
“We want using a mobile phone while you’re behind the wheel to be thought of as the new drink driving,” he said.
“We see younger people, walking or cycling, pre-occupied with their phones, so the behaviours are very established by the time they have their licence, well before they are subject to any laws we might have about using phones while driving.”
As road transport fleets look to get younger across their driving crews and established operators negotiating increasingly crowded routes with a broader spectrum of drivers it's a hot issue affecting all age ranges, genders and tasks.
Technology can play a part but it's only part of the solution according to Chief Inspector Brooks who said there needed to be more personal responsibility.
He believes current legislation is adequate and the best way forward is to engage the community with consistent messaging both in the media and on other channels, backed up by enforcement.
“We’ve had random breath testing since 1984, strong messaging and followed through with arrests and charges — that has all had a significant effect on road safety.”
Long-lens cameras are being used to identify drivers using their phones, and take photographs for evidence.
A rise in nose-to-tail crashes is thought to be symptomatic of mobile phone use.
Linfox stated that its own position on safety was non-negotiable. Telemetry allowed drivers to communicate operational updates without having to put their hands on a device, which helps keep their eyes on the road for longer.
Reaching for the phone can increase the probability of an incident by nearly five times according to research by Virginia Tech Transportation Institute. The US-based institute, which affects policy and legislation, found that texting increases the likelihood of an accident by more than six times, and dialling a hand-held phone ups the probability by more than 12 times.
Recent industry data suggests that one in ten heavy vehicle crashes results from heavy vehicle driver fatigue.
There is limited evidence on the reliability and validity of fatigue and distraction detection technologies, especially from independent third party assessments according to the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator (NHVR).
A recent review by the NHVR indicated that devices should not be implemented as a stand alone tool for fatigue management.
"Rather, the technology should be used as part of a Fatigue Risk Management System," it said in a statement.