Did you ever wonder what's the most dangerous (legal) thing you could do with your mobile phone while you drive? If you answered 'dial a number from your address book', you get to go to the top of the class.
As this investigation shows, drivers spend about 70 per cent of the time looking away from the road when they dial. Insane.
Australia’s laws on driving and using your mobile phone are a joke. If you think ‘legal’ is the same thing as ‘safe’, you’re not living in the real world.
In Australia, it’s legal to drive and use your mobile phone for calls, music or navigation if it’s mounted in a cradle, or connected wirelessly via Bluetooth.
Let’s take a look at the shocking implications – potentially – of doing both those things. Let’s find out exactly how much road you just don’t see, when you make a simple phone call – legally.
Got the phone in a cradle, 100% legal, and all I’m going to do is drive, and place a call. Might call mum – because, as a good son, I really want to remain in the will.
I’ve got one camera looking straight at me, so we can see whenever my eyes are off the road, and one on the phone. The video records 25 frames every second – so we can measure the total time spent not looking at the road, in 25th of a second increments. That’s pretty accurate.
OK – test number two. The phone is connected to the car via Bluetooth. That means the centre screen emulates the phone. Looking up your contacts, making and taking calls: you can do it all from here. Let’s do the same test.
Let’s go back and look making at each one of those calls, frame by frame, and measure exactly how much time I spent not looking at the road, trying to make a simple call.
It took almost 40 seconds to make the call when I had the phone in a cradle. In that time, my eyes were off the road for 26 seconds – that’s almost 70 per cent of the time. Look at it another way: at 60km/h I drove over more than 430 metres of road without actually seeing it. Several classrooms full of children, hypothetically, could have stepped out from behind a parked car over that distance. If I’d been on the highway, I’d have been driving blind for an astonishing 722 metres. Cue Skippy, and his equally brain-dead mates.
When the phone was connected by Bluetooth, it took just over 31 seconds to make the call, and I was driving blind for more than 21 of them. That’s more than 70 per cent of the time. The amount of road I didn’t see would have been almost 360 metres at 60km/h, and almost 600 metres at highway speeds. Bad luck if a truck had veered across the centre line while I was face-first in the phone.
And I didn’t break the law once – which is pretty much the reductio ad absurdum of Australia’s mobile phone/driving laws. They’re a joke, only not a particularly funny one. When you drive a car, your number one job is to mitigate risk: to identify hazards, and implement appropriate countermeasures.
You can’t actually do that if you’re not looking out here, at the dynamic driving environment. When things go wrong on the road, they go wrong very fast.
If you’re looking at your smart phone, and not out there, at the worst possible time and place, making that phone call could be the last thing you ever do. So I certainly hope it’s an important call.