The Australian Medical Association (AMA) has called for tougher penalties for distracted drivers who use mobile phones after releasing its first position statement document on road safety.
The Position Statement on Road Safety 2018 says that three people die on Australian roads every day and that mobile phones and other devices (including navigational systems) distract drivers and are a major cause of crashes, trauma and death.
President of the AMA, Dr Michael Gannon, said that they ultimately want to see driver behavior improved to increase safety on the roads.
“The AMA supports measures that change driver behaviour. We want to change the culture and mentality about using mobile devices in cars,” said Dr Gannon.
“Your driver’s licence is a privilege, not a right. Drivers who breach the road rules are putting themselves and others at risk, and must face meaningful sanctions.”
They would also like to see zero tolerance for P-plate and L-plate drivers, which would help nip bad behaviour in the bud before dangerous habits set in.
While a reduction in distracted drivers on the road would please many bike riders, there is one recommendation in the AMA’s policy that many bike riders won’t like to hear.
They are concerned about people riding while using headphones and believe it is also a safety issue.
“Using headphones or mobile devices while walking or cycling on or near roads is a serious safety risk, and is a factor in motor vehicle accidents,” Dr Gannon said.
While some points in the position statement are backed up with references, there is nothing noted to show that riding with headphones is dangerous or how many crashes have been caused by such behaviour.
It is fair to say that, like a driver, a bike rider shouldn’t use a device while riding, however there is no reason why a bike rider shouldn’t be able to ride with headphones in listening to music, podcasts or radio.
In 2012 Bicycle Network conducted its own study on riding with headphones to find out whether it impacts on ability to hear outside noise and traffic.
Armed with multiple types of headphones, a prosthetic ear designed at RMIT University and a decibel metre it was found that a bike rider using headphones with reasonable volume can still hear more outside noise than a driver in a car.
Other recommendations listed in the position statement to improve road safety include protected bike lanes separating cars and bike riders, development of legislation and systems to reduce fatigued driving and new car safety technology such as autonomous emergency braking and lane keep assist.