The Queensland University of Technology’s (QUT) Centre for Accident Research and Road Safety (CARRS-Q) has published a new review of current road safety laws surrounding mobile phone usage.
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While previous studies have measured the impact of mobile phones on driving performance, QUT is looking to see if there are methods to make distracted driving safer.

“Sometimes, it’s critical for people to be able to use their phone but we can look at how to make it safer which is a completely new approach to the distracted driving problem,” said Oscar Oviedo-Trespalacios, who just published the results of his PhD research into mobile phone usage behind the wheel.

“There are two important considerations; one is that the enforcement of mobile phone usage while driving is expensive and difficult, and the second is that data worldwide shows even with the extensive law and enforcement people use their phones anyway.”

“So research into the interaction between drivers and mobile phones could provide input for countermeasures to regulate usage and achieve safe driving-mobile phone integration,” he added.

Texting and talking while driving

Oviedo-Trespalacios said the introduction of new safety technologies like autonomous emergency braking (AEB) or automated parking may have safety benefits in the medium and long term, but the focus on automation doesn’t necessarily address the dangers posed by mobile phone distraction today.

He also quoted studies that show mobile phone conversations quadruple the likelihood of crashing.

“People who use their mobile phones while driving tend to slow down but they don’t necessarily see pedestrians, often swerve out of their lane and are less in control of their steering and pedals,” he said.

“We are not going to turn back time and stop people behaving this way so instead we should look at how we can use technology to make mobile phone technology safer while on the road.”

In July, the NSW government cracked down on P-plate drivers using mobile phones, enforcing a complete ban on mobile phone use for all probationary drivers.

Another approach considered to reduce the number of drivers texting behind the wheels was the concept of a 'textalyser' which uses a mobile phone's metadata to determine whether someone was using their mobile phone in the moments leading up to the test.

Do you think mobile phone usage should be completely banned or made safer? Let us know in the comments below.