Many young Australians are risking their lives by hiding their mobile phones while driving, with new research indicating more than three-quarters put phones in their laps.
Drivers were found to engage in phone conversations that tended to last nine minutes, on average, for every hour of driving.
They also twice held their phone to check for notifications each hour.
The study, conducted by the Queensland-based research centre CARRS Q, surveyed about 500 Australian drivers aged up to 25.
This included 17-year-olds who were yet to acquire their full licence and were still driving under supervision as a learner driver.
One of the most concerning findings was that 77 per cent of those surveyed admitted they would hide the phone in their laps to avoid a fine for breaking the law.
These findings were consistent with Transport for NSW crash data from 2010 to 2014 which showed there were 236 crashes where hand-held mobile phone use by drivers was identified as a contributing factor.
This included seven fatal crashes and 116 injury crashes.
More than 35,300 fines were issued to New South Wales drivers alone for using hand-held mobile phones in a 12-month period.
Australian Road Safety Foundation CEO Russell White last month told The New Daily that having a phone in your lap “escalates the risk” because it means you’re essentially “driving blind” with limited peripheral vision.
CARRS Q research associate Oscar Oviedo-Trespalacios told The New Daily that drivers who put their phones in their lap were placing themselves and others at high risk.
“Driving is a visual task. Anything that removes your eyes from the road is very very dangerous,” he said.
“Even looking at the phone for two seconds … because every second increases the risks dramatically.”
Almost half of drivers surveyed admitted to locating and answering their ringing phone while driving, while 28 per cent of drivers held the phone after taking a call.
About 34 per cent texted or browsed their phone three times every hour.
It is all too common to see drivers at traffic lights with their heads bowed down and eyes focused on their concealed phone, according to the Keep Your Eyes On The Road initiative.
It advised drivers to instead use a “cradle” affixed to the windscreen or dashboard at eye-line level and to use hands-free, speaker-phone functions or Bluetooth.
Apple’s upcoming iOS 11 software update will introduce an optional ‘Do Not Disturb While Driving’ setting which enables an iPhone to automatically silence notifications when it detects it is in a car.