Drivers on phones the new ‘drink driving’

MOTORISTS on their phones is the “drink driving” of this generation, with the distraction under reported in crash statistics, authorities say.

Experts are meeting on Friday to solve Victoria’s soaring road death toll, which has reached 137 this year, compared to 88 at the same time in 2018.

Speaking ahead of the summit, Roads Safety Minister Jaala Pulford says a new media campaign will highlight the danger of drivers using mobile phones.

“Mobile phone use in cars is the drink driving of this generation,” she said.

“The research tells us people think just two seconds is not as horrifically hazardous as it is.

“If you’re travelling at 100kmh an hour, for 55 metres it’s equivalent to having a blindfold on.”

A Transport Accident Commission survey of 1742 Victorians, aged 18 to 60, revealed a third used the devices illegally while driving.

Research shows motorists of all ages are failing to heed the danger, says Joe Calafiore, CEO of the commission which receives 22,000 new injured clients a year.

“It’s absolutely frightening and horrifying the consequences of the accidents the TAC sees,” he says.

“I was chatting to a trauma surgeon at the Alfred the other week, he said in seven out of the eight trauma wards in the hospital were people admitting to the hospital they were on their phones,” Mr Calafiore said.

“The statistics may be at the 10, 20 per cent level, but we know as road safety professionals, the proportion is much higher than that.”

Besides alcohol, drugs and speed, which are often factors in fatal crashes, distraction continues to be one of the biggest killers, police say.

Road Policing Command Assistant Commissioner Stephen Leane says people are becoming increasingly distracted by the technology in their cars.

Most lives lost this year have been on country roads, despite a recent increase in wire rope barriers, maintenance works and speed cameras, along with more police officers on the road.

Authorities blame distraction, older cars, older roads and higher speeds.

Motorcyclists are also over-represented in the toll, with 26 killed this year, 10 more than this time last year. Some weren’t wearing a properly-fitted helmet and others had no head protection.

Mr Leane urged drivers to play their role to prevent more deaths, and not just leave it to police or experts to solve.

© AAP 2019