Alarming number of drivers do this behind the wheel

Moving Well | Sue Hewitt | Posted on 21 August 2019

A third of drivers admit to illegally using their smart phones while driving.

Motorists can still share a laugh with friends even when they’re driving and too busy to take a mobile call.

They can ‘hang out’ the ‘do not disturb’ shingle via a smart phone app, but then inject their own sense of humour into the auto-response message.

Australian comedians Sam Simmons and Aaron Chen show how it’s done in a series of light-hearted videos where they add their own unique message to the Do Not Disturb While Driving app.

“If Siri’s boring auto reply doesn’t do it for you then you can customise it like I do,” Sam says.

In delivering his “I’m driving” message Sam adds a giggle about his experiences at a dodgy restaurant.

You can watch Sam here and Aaron here

Someone driving a car whilst using their mobile phone

Their playful approach tackles a serious problem. The Transport Accident Commission, which is promoting the #DNDWhileDriving app, found that a third of 1742 drivers surveyed admit to illegally using their smart phones while driving.

TAC engagement senior manager Megan Jacobs says using comedians helps connect with a wider audience while offering a practical way to avoid distractions.

“Mobile phone distraction is a major factor in road trauma so it’s crucial that we take a variety of approaches to highlight the dangers of using a mobile phone while driving,” she says.

The TAC also rewards drivers who turn on the app at public events with a doughnut in its ‘Donut Disturb While Driving’ campaign. 

It’s part of an overall campaign to reduce driver distraction. Research shows that if you take your eyes off the road for two seconds when travelling at 60kmh you will travel 33 metres ‘blind’, while at 100kmh the distance travelled ‘blind’ is 55 metres.

“So far, 2019 has been a tragic year on our roads and we know that mobile phone distraction is a major factor causing death and injuries,” Megan says.

“Addressing road safety issues requires a comprehensive approach, but we want to show Victorians that there are simple things we can do right now to help make our roads safer.”

RACV’s manager of safety and education, Melinda Spiteri, says using mobile phones for calls, texts or other functions are a major factor in driver distraction. 

“Driver distraction is a growing factor in road crashes, and while it’s estimated to play a part in around 16 per cent of serious crashes, this figure is most likely underestimated,” she says.

RACV encourages drivers to install and use apps that block or limit certain functions on their phones, allowing them to concentrate on the road while driving.

“Our research supports the idea that a voluntary app such as Do Not Disturb While Driving can effectively reduce exposure to mobile phone-distracted driving activities if used properly and continuously,” she says.