Distracted driving

Distracted driving is a huge risk to people riding bikes and other vulnerable road users.


The problem

People take their eyes off the road while driving a car too often

Driving a motor vehicle is a big responsibility and requires full attention.

Unfortunately, there are many ways a driver can have their attention distracted away from the road environment.

One of the most acknowledged distractions for drivers are mobile phones, but they are not the only distraction.

As technology has advanced more devices have made their way into vehicles, either built into the control system or brought in by the driver, and they demand attention.

Other actions that may seem innocuous can be distracting, like eating and drinking, but they can be equally as dangerous.

When someone driving a car at 40kmh takes their eyes off the road for just two seconds, they travel blind for 20 metres. A two second distraction at 100kmh results in 55 metres of blind travel.

We must address distracted driving. If we don’t, the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics (BITRE) has predicted that road deaths will increase by 14% and serious injuries will increase by 25% by 2030.

Distracted driver

The solution

Take the responsibility out of the driver’s hands and stronger laws to deter distracted driving behaviours.

Developing technology-neutral road rules for driver distraction

Bike riders are in a unique position on the road – we continually pass cars as we ride and we can see into them. Sadly, what we see is more than just driving.

In February 2019 Bicycle Network outlined recommendations to address distracted driving in a submission to the National Transport Commission who are investigating ways to regulate the safe use of technology devices as part of the road rules.

The recommendations were based on responses to a survey about distracted driving from more than 2,000 bike riders who shared their experiences and thoughts.

After assessing responses from the survey it became clear that Australian road rules, regulation and enforcement have not kept pace with the convergence of technology, lifestyles and vehicles.

Bicycle Network’s submission included eight recommendations to address and prevent any activity that diverts the driver’s attention away from the road and puts vulnerable road users at risk.

Bicycle Network's recommendations to address distracted driving
  1. The rapid roll out of hi-tech traffic camera technologies and legal reforms that make it easier for police to enforce distracted driving laws.
  2. A national advertising campaign to highlight the kinds of distracted driving and their consequences.
  3. Higher penalties for distracted driving with consistency across states and territories.
  4. Fast-track in-vehicle mobile phone blocking technologies and its mandated implementation across all new vehicles sold in Australia.
  5. In-built opt-out ‘Do not disturb while driving’ apps automatically activated in all smartphones sold in Australia.
  6. Implement autonomous vehicle technology in all new cars sold in Australia.
  7. Establish a national crash database to track the causes of crashes and the impact of distracted driving.
  8. Research into the motivations of distracted driving with a focus on smartphone use.
Download Bicycle Network's submission

Culpable driving laws need to change

Enough is enough. Culpable driving causing death to be the charge for anyone who kills a person while using a mobile phone and driving.

We need stronger laws to change public perception and make people realise that using a phone while driving a car is unacceptable. It should be treated the same as drink-driving.

It means that using a mobile phone while driving will carry the same 20-year maximum penalty as manslaughter. 

We’ve been calling for mobile phone use to be recognised as culpable driving since 2001 when Anthony Marsh was killed while riding when Silvia Ciach sending a text crashed into him. This has not happened and driver behaviour has got worse.

The law also needs to recognise that distraction continues after you’ve sent the message or finished the conversation and work needs to be done to determine the rules. Clearly the courts aren’t going to make this happen. We need parliament to show leadership and say enough is enough.


The statistics

  • 35.7 per cent of bike riders see distracted driving every time they ride
  • 97.8 per cent of bike riders have seen someone use a mobile phone while driving
  • 78.9 per cent of riders have been involved in a ‘near-miss’ that they believe was caused by distracted driving
  • 22.2 per cent of riders have been involved in a crash that they believe was caused by distracted driving
  • 56 per cent of riders say that they now choose to ride on roads with less traffic, at times when there is less traffic or in entirely off-road environments because of distracted driving

Distracted driving updates

In the news...

Phone distraction crackdown

The Victorian government this week launches a high-tech camera system that can detect drivers using mobile phones, and have a fine on the way in...

New hope for an old problem: impaired driving

A group of Australian researchers has developed a set of valuable off-road screening tools that detect evidence of critical skills impairment in older drivers.

Siri might have the answer for driver distraction

A new study has confirmed the distractive power of touch screens, but has also shown that voice activated controls result in far less distraction.

Mandatory braking technology could slash road deaths

New research by Monash University has found that road deaths and serious injuries could be cut almost 10 per cent if all vehicles had autonomous emergency...

Cameras and higher penalties on the cards for Victoria

Victorian motorists who use their mobile phones while driving will be targeted in a trial of overhead cameras and could face hefty penalities.

Australia’s highest penalties put pressure on distracted drivers

The Queensland Government is sending a strong message to drivers who illegally use their phone while driving, introducing the toughest penalties in Australia.

Read more

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