Drivers underestimate mobile phone risks, says study

Thursday, 07 September, 2017

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Nearly 50% of drivers believe that answering a ringing phone is not as risky as texting while driving, according to new research.

Locating a ringing phone, checking who is calling, and rejecting or answering the call, is the most frequent mobile phone task undertaken by drivers according to the research, which was conducted by QUT’s Centre for Accident Research & Road Safety – Queensland (CARRS-Q).

Around 45% of 484 respondents in the Queensland study admitted to locating and answering a ringing phone while they were driving.

“Also concerning is that more drivers reported looking at a screen for more than two seconds or locating and answering a ringing phone than they did talking on a handheld phone, texting or browsing,” said lead researcher Oscar Oviedo-Trespalacios.

“Finding and reaching for a ringing phone is perceived by drivers as having a mid-range crash risk; however, research has shown that this task is one of the most risky activities a driver can engage in.

“This is because drivers are likely to adapt their driving behaviour when talking, texting and browsing, by reducing their speed, increasing their distance from the vehicle in front and scanning their environment more frequently.”

On the other hand, a ringing mobile phone can occur at any time without giving time for the driver to adapt their behaviour, therefore increasing the likelihood of a crash. In fact, using a mobile phone while driving has been shown to increase crash risk four-fold.

Other findings in the study include:

  • Despite the research, 12% of drivers still do not believe talking on a handheld phone is dangerous.
  • Drivers actively avoid police detection, with about 70% admitting to being on the lookout for police when using their phone.
  • Drivers keep their phones low and cover them to evade police detection.
  • On a typical day, drivers are more likely to look at their mobile phone for more than two seconds than they are to text or browse.

The paper, titled Risk factors of mobile phone use while driving in Queensland: prevalence, attitudes, crash risk perception and task-management strategies, was co-authored by Dr Mark King (QUT), Dr Md. Mazharul Haque (QUT) and Professor Simon Washington (UQ).

The research has been published in the PLOS ONE journal.

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