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In Western Australia, majority of young drivers use phones while driving, think they won’t get caught

Three-quarters (76 per cent) of young adults in Western Australia use their mobile phones while driving despite knowing it is illegal, new Edith Cowan University (ECU) research has found.

Of 193 young people surveyed, two-thirds (64 per cent) reported using their mobile phones while at a traffic light, with 30 percent using them while actively driving.

According to Masters of Criminal Justice researcher Sokunthea Kruy, this may be due to low experiences of accidents and the belief they are unlikely to get caught.

“Only 2.1% of people reported that they had been involved in a crash as a result of using a mobile phone while driving, and the younger respondents reported that no hospital attendance was required,” Ms Kruy said.

The majority of young drivers had also never been issued a caution or infringement for the act.

“Having a low perceived risk of experiencing a social or legal consequence may have contributed to the high occurrence of mobile phone use while driving,” Ms Kruy said.

“Not only is there a large proportion of people who have never suffered any legal consequences, there are also young drivers who believe they can hide their use, or believe that police are never present to catch themselves or others committing this type of offence.”

Good broad knowledge but still confused

Western Australia law states that mobile phones must not be held or used whilst driving or stationary (ie, at traffic light), but can be used when parked.

While the majority (86 per cent) of young drivers surveyed were aware of the legislation, there still appear to be grey areas.

“There was confusion as to what constitutes actual mobile phone use, if it was only limited to the traditional functions of a mobile phone, such as calling and texting, or whether it extends to other forms, such as changing music and utilising GPS,” Ms Kruy said.

“And a quarter of young drivers were unsure about the legality of drivers who receive a phone call and physically pick up their phone, press to answer the call and place the phone on loudspeaker nearby, which would be an offence if witnessed by a police officer.

“Drivers may only press the answer button on their mobile phones if their device is in a cradle. This is the only time drivers are allowed to touch their device,” she said.

An investigation of mobile phone use while driving: An application of the theory of planned behaviour can be accessed on the ECU website.


 

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