Paramedics at the scene of an accident on the Pacific Highway.
Paramedics at the scene of an accident on the Pacific Highway.

Surgeons warn when a mobile phone can be deadly

A SENIOR Australian trauma surgeon has warned of the deadly consequences of using a mobile phone while driving ahead of a national symposium today to address the problem.

Talking or texting on the phone while driving is a factor in one in five car crashes, and a shocking two out of three truck crashes, according to Sydney trauma surgeon Dr Valerie Malka.

Using a mobile phone on the road is four times more likely to cause an accident, she said.

"The majority of those using their phones while commuting are 18-24 year olds, and this age group also has the highest representation in road trauma statistics," Dr Malka said.

"Three out of five drivers in that age group have reported sending or using texts while driving, compared with one in three drivers over the age of 25.

"People still don't seem to be heeding the warning that using your phone while driving, riding a bicycle or as a pedestrian can be fatal."

Dr Malka is the convenor of a Royal Australasian College of Surgeons symposium called "Fatal Distraction" in Melbourne today aiming to draw attention to the problem

She said most people were shocked to discover that glancing at a phone for two seconds while driving at 60kmh equates to travelling 35 metres with eyes off the road.

"On behalf of all trauma surgeons, please don't underestimate the danger, and please don't use your phone while you are driving."

Richmond Local Area Command highway patrol Sergeant Stephen Fuhrmann said in serious accidents involving a fatality or serious injury, the Ballina-based crash investigation unit would request mobile phone records belonging to those involved in the crash and find out when the last phone call was made or received.

Sergeant Fuhrmann said mobile phone usage was also common cause of minor everyday prangs, particularly rear-enders.

Police are no longer to required to attend minor prangs if no one was injured so accurate data was hard to come across.

Sergeant Fuhrmann agreed with Dr Malka that young drivers were the most common culprits for mobile phone useage and were frequently caught texting, considered the most dangerous of all.

"Needless to say it's still variety widespread amongst all ages, but the majority that I see are the younger ones that aren't just talking on the phone but are texting on the phone which is far more dangerous," he said.

Using a mobile phone in normal circumstances will incur a $319 fine and three demerit points, while using it in a school zone will cost $425 fine and 4 demerit points.

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