NZTA has been talking about the perils of distraction for a while now. And Auckland Transport is on the same page. So it's released a new campaign that calls dangerous distracted drivers out—and asks witnesses to do the same.
Auckland Transport says it created “Oi! Mind on the road, not the phone” after research undertaken last year on 17-29-year-old drivers showed some alarming statistics. According to the study, 80 percent of the participants admitted being distracted at the wheel, 62 percent had used their smartphones while driving and 56 percent had used an app like Google Maps and visited social media sites on their phones while driving.
Driver distraction crash statistics showed there were 21 fatalities, 61 serious injuries and 782 minor injuries between 2009 (when cellphone usage in cars was banned) and 2013, according to Auckland Transport’s website. The organisation released a video as part of the campaign, which was facilitated through its main agency Work Communications, which in turn contracted Useful Films to create the clip. The video features a number of drivers using their smartphones before being reminded to keep their eyes on the road with a gentle, “oi!”.
Auckland Transport marketing services manager Mark Sharman says the agency doesn’t necessarily expect people to go up to a car and say “oi”.
“The idea is that the passenger or person next to them might say ‘Hey mind on the road, not the phone’”.
Auckland Transport's manager of campaigns and customer insights Rob Pitney says people of all ages are using their phones behind the wheel and a third of all distraction-related crashes involve drivers in their twenties.
"We've discovered two-thirds of people in this group are texting, using apps and social media, doing emails and making calls while driving,” he says. “They're the target of the 'Oi' campaign. We want to raise awareness of the very real dangers of using mobile phones while driving and to introduce a gentle 'nudge' that will enable passengers to encourage drivers to leave their phone alone."
The campaign is being pushed out through different mediums including print, social media (Facebook), cinema advertising and radio. The campaign also includes light boxes which have been placed in car parks and have movement activated voice messages reminding people to keep their minds on the road, not their phones.
Wellington City Council released a safety campaign last year in a similar vein to this one, to prevent people being distracted in the hope of reducing accidents. Its aim was to get Wellingtonians crossing the road with a “clear head” and it was slowly rolled out over print, video, outdoor and social media until earlier this month.
According to the Herald, Police statistics to September 2014 show a steady increase in the number of people fined for using their cellphones while driving, with more than 60,000 motorists nationwide pinged since the ban on using mobile phones came into effect in November 2009. It's still a common sight to see people on their phones while driving, so either the potential danger is not sinking in, or there is also some confusion over what's considered illegal, or a combination of the two (hands free mode is all good, but you can't use your phone when stopped at the lights and using Google Maps or changing the music on Spotify is no excuse).
Counties Manukau Road Policing Unit senior sergeant Mark Chivers says the penalty is $80 and 20 demerit points.
"Driver distractions come under high risk driving in our 'Fatal Five' - the five things that contribute to crashes and trauma on our roads. We have a continued focus on these things in our on-going effort to reduce road trauma."
A more controversial view is that mobile phones have probably come out about even in terms of harm caused, because actually having them means that those who are in accidents are more likely to receive faster medical intervention.
Now we wait patiently for driverless cars that will allow us to be as drunk, stoned and distracted as we want.