Road safety charity calls on drivers to cut the distractions

Brake, the road safety charity is urging drivers to give the road their full attention and not to take risks that put lives in danger.

Driver distraction is a factor in 12% of crashes in NZ. In 2015, these crashes resulted in 31 deaths and 191 serious injuries [1]. But research suggests that the number of crashes involving diverted attention may be under-reported in police crash systems, due to the difficulty in determining whether the driver was distracted before the crash, so that number could be much higher [2].

Brake has released a video on social media, sponsored by Thrifty Car Rental, calling on drivers to switch their mobile phones off, or put them on silent and out of reach. The video is one in a series that have been released this year asking drivers to be a #roadsafetyhero by remembering simple road safety messages.

A recent Ministry of Transport study into public attitudes towards road safety found an alarming 38% of drivers said they had used a cell phone for sending or receiving text messages while driving. Also worrying was that 22% of drivers admitted to making calls on a hand-held phone whilst driving [3].

If you talk on the phone while driving - hands-free or hand-held - your risk of causing an injury or death is four times higher than without the distraction [4]. Use a phone to text, email or browse the internet and the risk is much higher still.

Brake is calling on drivers to commit to never using a mobile phone at the wheel or to do anything else which diverts your attention from driving, to save lives and prevent families from experiencing the devastating consequences of crashes.

Brake advises drivers to put their phone off or on silent and out of sight and reach. If you do need to make or take calls, pull over in a safe place. Brake is also urging friends, family, employers and colleagues to do their bit and make life easier for drivers by not calling them or continuing phone conversations while they're at the wheel.

Distraction reduces hazard perception and increases reaction times in a similar way to drink-driving, making drivers much more likely to cause deaths and injuries [5]. Drivers who think they can multi-task are fooling themselves: research shows 98% are unable to divide their time without it affecting performance [6].

Caroline Perry, Brake's New Zealand director said: "In the modern world, drivers are confronted with many distractions that prevent them from giving the road their full attention, risking devastating crashes and loss of life. Driving is the riskiest thing most of us do regularly. You're operating a potentially lethal machine in an unpredictable environment, so it requires full concentration.

"It's extremely concerning that so many drivers are choosing to put their own life, and the lives of others at risk by using a phone at the wheel. When you're driving, it's essential to keep your eyes and mind on the road at all times. Turn off your phone, or put it on silent, and keep it out of reach."

Emma Gardiner GM, Thrifty Car Rental New Zealand said: "Thrifty Car Rental is committed to doing what we can to reduce the number of crashes on our roads. There is such a simple solution available to us all to help achieve that result - when driving give the task 100% of your attention. Committing to that single action could mean the world of difference. We urge everyone to take time to view the video and see how you can make sure you complete your journey as safely as possible."

To view the video visit

Quick reference facts: mobile phones

  • A study of in-vehicle video footage estimated that 22% of crashes could be caused, at least in part, by driver distraction [7].
  • Drivers speaking on phones are four times more likely to be in a crash that causes injury, whether on a hands-free or hand-held phone [8].
  • Hands-free calls cause almost the same level of risk as hand-held [9], as the call itself is the main distraction, not holding the phone. Brain scanning has confirmed that speaking on a hands-free phone makes you less alert and less visually attentive [10].
  • Texting drivers have 35% slower reaction times and poor lane control [11]. One large-scale study found texting drivers were 23 times more likely to crash than a driver paying full attention [12].

[1] Diverted attention factsheet, Ministry of Transport, 2016
[2] Reviewing how distraction involvement is coded in the New Zealand crash analysis system, Gordon, C., 2009
[3] Public attitudes to road safety: Results of the 2016 survey, Ministry of Transport, 2016
[4] Role of mobile phones in motor vehicle crashes resulting in hospital attendance: a case-crossover study, University of Western Australia, 2005
[5] The impact of driver inattention on near-crash/crash risk, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2006
[6] Supertaskers: Profiles in extraordinary multitasking ability, University of Utah, 2010
[7] The impact of driver inattention on near-crash/crash risk, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2006
[8] Role of mobile phones in motor vehicle crashes resulting in hospital attendance: a case-crossover study, University of Western Australia, 2005
[9] Using a hands-free mobile whilst driving can be more dangerous than drink driving, Transport Research Laboratory, 2009
[10] Speaking on a hands-free phone while driving makes you less alert and less attentive, University of Toronto, 2013
[11] The effect of text messaging on driver behaviour: a simulator study, Transport Research Laboratory, 2008
[12] Driver Distraction in Commercial Motor Vehicle Operations, Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, 2009

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