Australians continue to use hand-held mobile phones while driving, even though it’s illegal and dangerous, a new survey shows.
A study of licensed drivers aged 18 to 65 in NSW and Western Australia, and published in the Medical Journal of Australia (MJA), has found 39 per cent of people have used a hand-held phone while driving.
Just over 12 per cent of respondents admitted to writing a text message while at the wheel.
Men, young people and people living in metropolitan areas are the most likely offenders.
The survey, carried out by the Sydney-based George Institute for International Health, found, using statistical extrapolation methods, an estimated 46,000 people aged between 18 and 65 had been involved in a crash in the past year while using a mobile phone in WA and NSW.
Almost 147,000 had been forced to take evasive action to avoid an accident.
"Our findings highlight the potential dangers of mobile phone use while driving, in relation to near misses and crashes," Dr Suzanne McEvoy of the institute said.
"Increased enforcement and media campaigns to raise drivers’ awareness about the risks of phone use while driving are needed."
Dr McEvoy said campaigns should target young and learning drivers.
The MJA reports that research shows both hand-held and hands-free phones can impair driving performance and increase the risk of a crash by four times.
However, half of the 1,347 respondents to the institute’s survey did not believe current laws should be extended to ban the use of hands-free phones while driving.