Drivers - don't send that message

18 February 2010

An SGIC road test has exposed the true dangers of texting while driving showing when drivers were challenged to do both, they spent almost 70 per cent of the trip glancing at their phone - greatly increasing the chance of a collision*.

The road test also revealed the drivers on average glanced at their phone 38 times for an average length of 1.4 seconds during the trip. This means that when a driver is travelling at 60km/h, they are glancing at their phone for 22 metres at a time – which is almost five car lengths.

SGIC spokesperson Robert McDonald said this is a confronting insight into the dangers of sending and receiving text messages while driving.

“People clearly have an appetite for mobile phones and their convenience of immediate communication. But drivers need to resist the urge of sending or reading that message when it comes through, it is not only dangerous for the driver, but also for the passengers and other drivers on the road,” Mr McDonald said.

Mr McDonald said it is risky doing anything else while driving, such as eating or drinking, checking your appearance or smoking.

“We want to remind all SA drivers that a text message should not compromise safe driving. If you lose focus while behind the wheel, even if it is only for a split second, the consequences can be serious.

“If people need to read or send a message urgently then we suggest they pull over and read it in a safe place,” Mr McDonald said.

It is illegal to drive while using a hand-held mobile phone, the penalty is a significant fine and three demerit points. Learners and P1 drivers also must not use a mobile phone while driving**.

* The road test was conducted on a closed circuit private road. Ten drivers (aged 20 to 54) texted an identical message (“The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog”) while driving at 60km/h. The drivers faces were filmed with eye movements recorded – a single eye movement is referred to as a ‘glance’.