P-plate drivers Kearly Schirrman and Edward Ryan. Picture: Jake Nowakowski
P-plate drivers Kearly Schirrman and Edward Ryan. Picture: Jake Nowakowski

Scary trend as young drivers still distracted by phones

Nearly two thirds of learner and probationary drivers read text messages while behind the wheel and nearly half send them.

One in three L and P-platers make and receive phone calls without using hands-free, according to research.

Others play games, watch video clips, shop, play music and check their social media status while driving.

The University of Canberra analysis, which studied the mobile phone use of 612 drivers aged 17 to 24, also showed 16 per cent of young drivers use their phones to take photos and videos on Snapchat.

Lead researcher Amanda George said Snapchat's functions in particular enabled drivers to brag to friends about their speed and behaviour on the road.

"People Snapchat while they're driving,'' a study participant told researchers.

"They're literally watching themselves, or they're driving and pointing it on the road. It's kind of scary."

The study showed 80 per cent of L and P-plate drivers touched their phones to play music.

Dr George, from the Centre for Applied Psychology, said teens thought it was more acceptable to change a song, read a text or take an incoming call because it only involved pressing one button.

"Despite the resources required to operate the vehicle, driving was seen as 'just sitting there', particularly when stopped in heavy traffic or at a red traffic light, and thus using the phone to connect with others would be a more beneficial use of time," Dr George said.

"Checking the phone while the car is stationary, but not parked, is not perceived by these young adults as using the mobile phone while driving."

Road crashes are the leading cause of deaths among Australians aged 15 to 24.

Edward Ryan, 21, said recent TAC campaigns helped him see the danger of looking at a phone while driving.

"I used to sometimes check my phone occasionally at stop signs but now I just put my phone in the boot of the car to resist looking at it," Mr Ryan said. "It's clear that we are hearing more and more that young drivers are getting into major accidents, so I assume phones might be partly to blame."

Road Safety Safety Minister Jaala Pulford said: "Even a two-second glance at your phone means you're driving blind - put your phone away when you're behind the wheel."

susan.obrien@news.com.au