At 50 kilometres an hour, a vehicle driven by someone distracted for just two seconds by a mobile phone message covers more than half the length of an Olympic pool.
Imagine the consequences when travelling at highway speed of 100 km/h.
And yet 63 per cent of respondents to a Transport Accident Commission survey reported having used a hand-held mobile phone while driving in the previous month, compared with 32 per cent in 2004. And more than one in 10 said they would read a text while driving, while six per cent would write them.
The commission has urged drivers to put their phones out of reach and earshot.
“No phone call, message or social media update is important enough to take the risk of injuring yourself or others on the road,” a spokesman told The Standard.
“The only way to ensure you can be safe is to avoid using the phone altogether while driving,” the commission said.
“Illegal use of mobile phones while driving has nearly doubled since 2004 and can be explained by an increased number of services in operation and the fact that texting has become more prevalent and mobile devices are for other purposes, including social media and internet browsing.”
The commission surveyed 949 Victorian motorists in September, two months before the state government increased the penalty for illegal phone use while driving to a $433 fine (up from $289) and the loss of four demerit points (up from three).
The TAC recommends drivers use a new Road Mode app, which can silence calls and messages while driving, or they should set their phone to silent mode.
Victoria’s penalties are the harshest in Australia, compared with $337 in the ACT and $330 in Queensland, $304 in NSW, $300 in South Australia, $250 in Western Australia and $250 in Northern Territory for L and P-platers and $60 for other drivers.
Victoria Police fined 59,000 motorists for talking on the phone in 2012.
NRMA Insurance has research showing more than one in four drivers admit to using their mobile phone while on the road.