Don't answer that phone - get your hand off it!

Posted by: Cal on 17/06/2013

Category: General

NSW drivers who make excuses for using their mobile phones while driving have been warned: Get your hand off it!

The phrase is being used as part of a new campaign aimed at getting the public to understand the dangers of using a phone while driving, and that it is illegal to do so in most cases.

We all know how distracting a text, tweet or email can be, and it doesn't help that new targets for our attention keep popping up at an incredible rate.

Just go back in time five years and see what blank stares the words 'Instagram', 'Snapchat' and 'Vine' get you!

Yet these and the more traditional messaging and calling capabilities built into mobile devices now come with us wherever we go, thanks to smartphones, tablets, phablets and tablones (one of these may not have been invented yet).

That includes in the car, where their propensity to distract can go beyond slightly concerning and move into actual danger territory.

When you are in control of a vehicle you have a responsibility to your passengers and other road users to give your full attention to your driving.

Yet according to NSW roads minister Duncan Gay, practically half (49 per cent) of motorists make calls using a handheld phone while they are driving.

Even more (55 per cent) admit to answering calls while on the road and in control of a vehicle.

"It amazes me that people pick up their phone and take their eyes off the road to make and receive calls, send and check texts and emails or check Facebook and Twitter all while they're at the wheel of a moving vehicle," said Mr Gay in a June 12 statement.

State Debt Recovery Office figures indicate that last year there were more than 42,000 infringements issued to motorists for using their phones while driving.

In response to what seems to be a widespread problem, the NSW government last week launched the "Get Your Hand Off It" campaign.

This features traditional advertising as well as a unique YouTube music video performed by Derek Anderson, as part of a social media campaign to get the message out about safe mobile phone use to younger drivers.

The song parodies the excuses made by drivers for using their mobiles illegally at the wheel.

The chorus begins: "Get your hand off it, But I'm at a red light; Get your hand off it, Gotta get this text right".

"Holding your mobile phone to call or text while driving is extremely dangerous and threatens your safety and that of your passengers, other motorists and pedestrians," Mr Gay said.

"'Get Your Hand Off It' provides the community with a cheeky phrase that empowers them to speak out against friends and family who use their phones in a reckless manner behind the wheel."

In Australia, the rules are very simple when it comes to using a mobile phone while driving: you can only do it if you use a hands-free car kit or a portable hands free device, such as a Bluetooth headset.

If you don't have either of these, it is a good idea to have a look at the Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association's (AMTA's) mobile phones and driving safety tips.

These provide advice on what to do if you absolutely must take that call or send a text when out on the road.

Even if you do have a setup that enables hands-free calling, it can be dangerous to divert even a small amount of your attention from the environment around you.

The AMTA recommends that drivers refrain from making or receiving calls when in heavy traffic, when dealing with poor road conditions or particularly bad weather.

It is always safer to pull over to an area away from other drivers, or simply to wait until you arrive at your destination.