• Younger motorists less confident using a phone while driving than they were two years ago 
  • Checking phone while stopped at a traffic light and changing song on playlist most common uses
  • Texting while driving considered more likely to cause a fatality than drink driving.

In January 2020 Budget Direct asked 1000 Australian adults about their attitudes and behaviours when it comes to using a mobile phone while driving.

Here’s what they told us:

Do you/would you feel confident driving while using your phone?

This question is the same as one we asked in 2018. So you can compare how confidence levels have shifted over the past two years.

Australia

Nationwide, there was a slight fall in motorists’ confidence in their ability —actual or perceived – to drive while using a mobile phone.

By state

NSW

VIC

QLD

WA

SA

ACT

TAS

NT

In most states, there was a drop in motorists’ confidence in their ability —actual or perceived – to drive while using a mobile phone.

New South Wales was the exception, with confidence levels remaining steady.

(The small sample sizes in ACT, Tasmania and the Northern Territory make comparisons over time less reliable.)

By age

18-24

25-34

35-44

45-54

55-64

65+

Younger motorists’ confidence in their ability —actual or perceived – to drive while using a mobile phone has fallen sharply over the past two years.

In the 18–24 and 25­–34 age groups, the number of people who said they were confident declined by 58.7% and 70.8% respectively.

It’s difficult to pinpoint why, however greater public awareness of the dangers of distracted driving may have played a role.

The falls in younger motorists’ confidence levels was offset by rises in those of older drivers.

By gender

Male

Female

Men and — more so — women are less confident than they were two years ago in their ability (actual or perceived) to drive while using a mobile phone.

What's the main way you've used your mobile phone while driving in the past two weeks?

Checking it while stopped at traffic lights was the main way people used their phones.

This is perhaps partly explained by some people’s mistaken belief that it’s OK to use your phone if your car is stationary. 

What's the main reason you used your phone while driving in the past two weeks?

The main reason respondents gave for using their phones over the previous two weeks was that they felt safe and capable of doing so. Force of habit was another prime reason.

Which of these scenarios is most acceptable — with the phone out of its cradle?

Surprisingly, with a phone out of its cradle, more respondents thought it acceptable to reply to a text in a moving car than to check the phone in a stationary one.

Which of these scenarios is most acceptable — with the phone in its cradle?

With a phone in its cradle, a majority of respondents said any type of use was unacceptable. They were more relaxed about using a phone out of its cradle (see question above).

Which of these factors is most likely to result in a road fatality?

That texting and drink driving are considered comparable risks squares with research showing the response times of distracted drivers and drunk drivers are similar.

What would be the most effective way of deterring people from texting while driving?

These responses will be music to the ears of the New South Wales and Queensland governments, who have introduced mobile-detection cameras and increased penalties respectively.  

The penalty for illegally using a mobile phone in while driving is:

a fine of $1000 and
4 Demerit Points.§

a fine of $344 and
5 Demerit Points.§

a fine of $496 and
4 Demerit Points.§

a fine of $336 and
3 Demerit Points.§

a fine of $480 and
3 Demerit Points.§

a fine of $534 and
3 Demerit Points.§

a fine of $400 and
3 Demerit Points.§

a fine of $500 and
3 Demerit Points.§

Of these deterrents, which one would be most likely to stop you from texting while driving?

That heavy fines and demerit points are considered the biggest deterrents to texting while driving appears to justify the Queensland Government’s tougher penalty. Still, more than a quarter of respondents are unmoved by sanctions of any kind.

In some jurisdictions (e.g. Victoria), it’s illegal to use your phone to pay for food (or other items) at a drive-thru unless your car’s engine is turned off. In others (e.g. NSW), it’s OK to leave the engine running. A large minority of respondents think it should be legal, period.

How to stop your phone distracting you

Traffic offences and car insurance

If you get caught illegally using your mobile phone while driving, you’ll not only be penalised by the authorities, your car insurance premium may go up.

That’s because your driving history is one of the factors we use when calculating your premium.

It’s important you honestly answer any questions we ask you about your driving history.

Not only when you buy insurance, but also when you renew your policy or vary, extend or reinstate your insurance.

Contact details

For further information or any questions about how to cite this information, please contact Yacine Khouzami at yacine.khouzami@autogeneral.com.au

This survey was conducted by Google Surveys on behalf of Budget Direct in January 2020. All figures are from this research unless stated otherwise. The survey was conducted online with a total sample size of 1,000 weighted and representative of all Australian adults (aged 18+).

§ If you’re caught using a mobile phone in a school zone in NSW the fine increases to $457. In the ACT, if you’re caught doing anything more on your phone than speaking, the penalty increases to a $589 fine and 4 demerit points.

Get a car insurance quote online