A focus on driver distractions

NSW’s “Get Your Hand Off It” mobile phone distraction campaign, in operation since June 2013, has already been credited with preventing many accidents. However, some powerful sporting stars have thrown their weight towards the campaign to give it another boost.

The Sydney Swans, who play Fremantle in Saturday’s qualifying final, feature in an entertaining advertisement that is on Transport for NSW’s YouTube channel and the Swans’ website.

The video features some of the Swans players including co-captain Kieren Jack attempting to play AFL while using their phones. It was no surprise that the players struggled and although humorous, it does highlight that drivers can’t fully concentrate on the road while calling or texting.

This isn’t the first social media aspect of the “Get Your Hand Off It” campaign, as many people watch the popular Misadventures of Derek series.

Minister for Roads and Freight Duncan Gay said the Sydney Swans video aims to add another piece to the campaign’s message.

“We need to see a generation change in thinking, to make touching your phone while driving just as anti-social a behaviour as drink driving,” he said.

“I’m looking forward to seeing the public response to these new videos as the Swans hit their strides during the finals season.”

There have been many studies recently that have illustrated when a driver looks away from the road onto another task, the risk of an accident increases. Attempting to concentrate on two things slows reaction times and a driver’s ability to recognise road hazards.

Swans co-captain Kieren Jack admitted the videos are funny, yet said it highlights a growing problem on state roads.

“It only takes a split second for something to go wrong, and taking your eyes off the road to look at your phone – whether you’re texting, tweeting or checking your email – is really dangerous,” he explained.

“These videos are a light-hearted take on a serious, important message for the entire community and the Swans are proud to be associated with the ‘Get Your Hand Off It’ campaign.”

Younger generation in focus

Parents often worry about their children getting behind the wheel and with the increasing technological aspect – the concern is growing.

People aged between 18-24 are generally over represented in the state’s road toll, but a recent survey and analysis goes some way to deciphering what the root problem is.

A total of 7,000 drivers aged between 18 and 24 were surveyed and researchers found texting and talking aren’t the only problems on the road.

The survey, commissioned by Ford, found more than one in four young drivers in France and Germany admit to taking a ‘selfie’ on the road, while in the UK this grows to one in three. Taking a photo takes on average of 14 seconds from the lock screen to the photo app and researchers estimate a vehicle at 100km/h can travel up to three football fields in this time.

The Australian Automobile Association (AAA) agreed that this is a problem in Australia as well and more education for young drivers is necessary to teach them the dangers of distraction.

“Any distraction while on the road is dangerous, particularly for inexperienced drivers,” Chief Executive of the AAA, Andrew McKellar told Car Guide.

“(But) taking a photo or a selfie while driving is extremely dangerous.”

Parents are also urged to remind their children of the financial and criminal consequences of mobile phone use while driving.

In NSW, there is a $311 fine and three demerit points which increases to $405 if they are caught in a school zone. State police remind Learner and Provisional P1 drivers that they are not allowed to use any phone function while driving.

As they are still learning to navigate roads and hazards, they are also not allowed to use hands-free kits or Bluetooth technology.

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