15% of Australians surveyed feel confident in their ability to drive while using a mobile phone. Despite the research that implicates distracted driving as the cause of up to 14%1 of all road crashes, Australians are still engaging in this dangerous driving behaviour.

As mobile phones have become more connectable and user-friendly over the years, there has been a noticeable increase in the amount of people who self-reported use of their mobile phone whilst driving. In 2005, 47% of active drivers reported using their mobile phone while driving. This figure rose to 61% of drivers in 20135 and has remained at that percentage for the last five years.

The introduction of hands-free and bluetooth options might be lulling people into believing that the risks associated with using a mobile phone while driving is decreasing, and while hands-free and bluetooth options are legal in Australia, there are strict conditions enforced in each state to ensure they are used safely.

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


(Using your phone can include changing music, calling or texting someone)

So while only 15% of Australian drivers feel confident in their ability to change music, call or text while driving, up to 61% of all drivers are using their phones. Which means that 46% of these people are not confident in their ability to drive. Which poses the question, what is worse: someone who uses their mobile phone confidently, or someone who still uses their phone, despite feeling unconfident in their ability to manage both tasks? Confident or unconfident, the risks are still the same for everybody.

Operating a mobile phone while driving is dangerous on more than one level. Operating a mobile phone can be not only a physical distraction, moving your hands away from the steering wheel, but a visual distraction as you divert your eyes from the road to look at the phone and a cognitive distraction as your attention is divided between concentrating on the road and the phone.

Research undertaken by CARRS-Q2 has shown that the actions of dialling, texting and talking on a mobile phone can lead to riskier decision making, slower reaction times, speed variation, less controlled braking, reduced awareness of surroundings. All of these factors mean there is a much higher crash risk for drivers using a mobile phone than those who do not use a mobile phone.

There were some interesting differences in confidence levels when looking at the data broken down by state. Whether individual state laws affect the attitudes of the responses is unknown, but there was no direct correlation between the state or territories’ penalties and the levels of confidence demonstrated by the drivers.

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


(Using your phone can include changing music, calling or texting someone)

Penalties for using a device while driving


South Australia had the highest percentage of respondents (22.2%) who were confident using their mobile phones while driving. The states penalties are on the lower end of the spectrum at a $327 fine and the loss of three demerit points for a mobile phone related offense. In the last decade South Australia has seen an increase in the number of fatalities on its roads, one of only two states to do so, the other being NSW4. Every other state and territory has seen a decrease in fatalities, which poses the question of whether or not the South Australian’s confidence in using phones while they drive is directly influencing the number of fatalities caused by distracted driving.

On the other side of the scale, it was the territories, the ACT and the Northern Territory, who had 0% of respondents report that they felt confident using their phone while driving.

The ACT’s laws go into specific detail about how mobile phones may be used while in a car, namely around hands-free and mounted phone use. There is a $447 fine for talking on a hand-held phone and the loss of three demerit points but a $548 fine for texting or using the internet/social media and the loss of four demerit points. These fines are on the higher end of the scale which could explain the reported 0% confidence of ACT drivers.

However the Northern Territory currently has the least specific laws concerning mobile phone use with the only clarification in the list of offences and penalties being ‘You must not use a hand-held mobile phone while driving even if you are stopped at traffic lights’5. There is a $250 fine plus the loss of three demerit points if a driver is caught using their mobile phone illegally. This is the most lenient of the penalties of any of the states and territories in terms of the fine amount. Meaning that there must be some other cause besides fear of fines and penalties shaking the confidence of the Northern Territory drivers.

A notable trend was also observed in the ages of drivers who felt confident in their ability to drive while using their phone. Reported confidence levels corresponded with statistics that pointed towards younger drivers being more likely to use their phones. CARRS-Q found that young drivers aged between 18-25 were twice as likely to make a call and four times more likely to text while driving3.

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


(Using your phone can include changing music, calling or texting someone)


The survey results demonstrate that confidence and willingness to offend are closely tied together in this scenario, with both confidence and willingness to offend decreasing with the age of the respondent.

The age group that demonstrated the least confidence in using phones while driving were the older generations, specifically the over 65’s, who were 5 times less likely to indicate that they would feel confident using their phones than respondents aged 18-24. The over 60’s were also found to have the lowest percentage of self reported phone use while driving at 29%6.

An unfortunate side effect of continually getting away with a behaviour without any negative consequences, is that people feel more confident in repeating that specific behaviour. Perhaps the way forward with reducing driver distracted related crashes and fatalities is not to focus on the financial repercussions, but rather looking at the outcomes of the crashes themselves and the effects they can have on people’s health and safety.


This survey was conducted by Pure Profile on behalf of Budget Direct in May 2018. 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+).

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