Mobile phone use while driving statistics – Australia
Drivers who text are 10 times more likely to crash yet a large number of Australians still do it.
Hundreds of car accidents occur every year in Australia as a result of mobile phone use. According to the Transport Accident Commission, drivers who use their phone while driving are 10 times more likely to crash.
18% of Australians use their mobile while driving
Unfortunately, many Australians still feel comfortable using their phones on the road. According to a Finder survey of 1,090 respondents, 18% of people admitted to using their mobile phones while driving.
Another survey of 2,492 Victorians by the Transport Accident Commission revealed that 52% of people said they used a mobile phone while driving.
|Mobile phone usage||Percentage|
|Used social media||9%|
|Watched a movie||7%|
|Replied to an email||7%|
|Answered a call (not using hands-free)||6%|
*It's worth noting the total doesn't amount to 18% here because respondents could pick 1 or more things that they'd done.
Australia's deadly roads
Despite ongoing efforts to reduce road deaths, statistics show Australia is a more deadly place to drive today than it was 5 years ago. In 2022, there were 1,181 road deaths in Australia – 46 more than 2018. In September 2023 alone there were 128 road deaths, 32.8% higher than the average over the previous 5 years.
New road fatality data also shows that deaths are returning to the pre-pandemic trend. Road deaths only decreased by 0.5% from 2013 to 2022.
Mobile phone-related deaths
In NSW, there were 191 casualties between 2012-2019 involving a driver or rider using a handheld mobile phone.
According to the QLD Government, on average 29 people are killed and 1,284 seriously injured each year as a result of crashes where driver distraction played a part.
However, it's very difficult to obtain evidence of when a mobile phone was used, so it's likely to be underreported in crash data.
According to the Australian Automobile Association, distracted driving is the main contributing factor in approximately 16% of serious casualty road crashes. Several reports have shown distracted driving may be as dangerous, if not more dangerous than drink driving.
The common assumption is that using a hands-free device while driving is safer than using a handheld phone. Unfortunately, studies have shown this isn't true.
"Conversation is a distraction. When drivers use a mobile phone there's an increased likelihood of a crash resulting in injury. Using a hands-free device isn't any safer," Mark Stevenson, professor of urban transport and public health at The University of Melbourne, says.
A 2005 study which Stevenson led showed that drivers were almost 4 times more likely to crash while using a phone, hands-free or not.
Another study by Queensland University of Technology (QUT) also found that using a hands-free mobile phone is just as distracting as holding it in your hand.
The fine for mobile phone use while driving is $362. There's a $481 fine for use in a school zone.
NSW has the highest penalties for illegal mobile phone use out of all Australian states. You'll receive 5 demerit points for illegal mobile phone use and 10 demerit points during double demerit periods.
It's illegal to hold and use your phone while stationary at traffic lights or stuck in traffic.
The Victorian government earlier this year increased the penalties for using a mobile device while driving to a $577 fine and 4 demerit points.
Mobile phone and seatbelt detection cameras have been introduced across the state to try to reduce the number of lives lost due to distracted driving.
Queensland has the largest fines for illegal mobile phone use. You can be charged $1,161 and have 4 demerit points recorded against your traffic history for illegal use of a mobile phone while driving. This includes when you're stopped at traffic lights or stopped in traffic.
Double demerit points will apply for second or subsequent phone offences committed within 1 year of an earlier offence.
Open and P2 licence holders can also be fined for hands-free use of a phone in Queensland if the driver isn't in proper control of the vehicle or is deemed to be driving without proper care and attention.
Learner and P1 drivers under 25 are not allowed to use hands-free, wireless headsets or a mobile phone's loudspeaker function. Passengers of learner and P1 provisional drivers are also banned from using a mobile phone's loudspeaker function.
Similar to other states, the Queensland government has installed mobile phone detection cameras across the state.
In NT there's a $500 fine and 3 demerit points for using a mobile phone while driving.
You cannot use a handheld mobile phone or visual display unit while driving, even if you're stopped at traffic lights.
In WA the fine for touching or holding a mobile phone while not in a cradle to make, receive or end a voice call is $500 and 3 demerit points. The fine goes up to $1,000 and 4 demerit points for creating, sending or looking at a text, email, social media, photo or video.
The fine for getting caught using your phone while driving is $540 and 3 demerit points.
Learner's permit and P1 provisional drivers are not allowed to use a mobile phone at all while driving. This includes using hands-free mode, loudspeaker, GPS and text messaging.
In TAS the penalty for using your phone while driving is $390 and 3 demerit points. Detection cameras were rolled out across the state in the middle of 2023.
Learner and P1 provisional licence holders will also incur a fine of $390 and 3 demerit points if caught using the mobile phone while the vehicle is moving or stationary, but not parked.
In the ACT the fine is $514 and 3 demerit points for driving using a mobile phone.
If you're caught using a mobile phone for messaging, social networking, mobile application or accessing the internet, you'll be fined $632 and 4 demerit points.
Learner and provisional drivers are not allowed to use a mobile phone while driving at all. If you touch your mobile device, it's considered an offence and you could be fined.
Car insurance premiums
Car insurance companies won't cover any insurance claim if you were texting or using your phone illegally while driving. In fact, depending on the severity of the fines, some insurers may deem these people as high risk drivers. As a result, it's likely you'll find it harder and more expensive to get car insurance if you've been fined for texting while driving.
Finder got comprehensive car insurance quotes from 5 different insurers with 2 different driver profiles: 1 with demerit points for a mobile phone offence and 1 without.
3 insurers did not ask if the driver had any points when getting a preliminary quote. However, Budget Direct and QBE charged the driver with points significantly more, $652 and $732 extra per year, respectively. With the difference being hundreds of dollars, it's well worth shopping around to find the best car insurance for those who have incurred demerit points.
- ACT Road Transport (Offences) Regulation
- ACT Mobile Distraction
- Australian Automobile Association
- Australian Government Department Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Communications and the Arts, Road Deaths Australia August 2023
- Finder Consumer Sentiment Tracker: Driving Habits (July 2023)
- National Library of Medicine - National Institutes of Health, A comparison of the cell phone driver and the drunk driver
- QLD Gov: Road Safety Strategy
- SA Gov My Licence: Mobile Phones
- SA Gov My Licence: Offences and Penalties
- Transport NSW: Mobile Phones
- Transport TAS
- Transport Accident Commission (TAC): Distracted Driving
- Transport Accident Commission (TAC), Road Safety Monitor Report 2022
- VIC: Fine amounts and demerit points
- WA Gov: Road Safety Commission: Mobile Phones and Distractions
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