Police target texting drivers
Risky: Police will target texting drivers. Picture: Bill Hatto/The West Australian

Motorists who use their phone while driving are potentially more dangerous than drink- drivers, according to senior WA traffic cops who have promised further crackdowns on driver inattention.

Det-Sen. Sgt Brian Hunter, the officer in charge of the major crash unit, said police had seen a "dramatic increase" in mobile phone use while driving.

The anti-drink driving message appeared to be getting through after years of campaigning, but Det-Sen. Sgt Butler said the dangers of using phones while driving was not being taken seriously.

"It is still seen as socially acceptable, and it's accepted as not being a serious practice, but the emerging statistics suggest it is," he said.

"It is a big focus for police now, and we'll be looking at further legislative needs as well as campaigns around enforcement."

Det-Sen. Sgt Butler said driver inattention was emerging as the major factor for car accidents, both major and minor.

"Potentially there could be far greater ramifications for using phones while driving than the danger of drink-driving, because so many people have phones and so many are continually checking them," he said.

Between 2010 and the end of 2013 there were 55 fatalities and 97 serious crashes in WA where inattention was cited as the cause.

During the same time, police have issued 55,169 traffic fines to motorists for mobile phone offences.

Sgt David Magorian, a reconstruction supervisor with the major crash unit, said while inattention had always been an issue the use of mobile phones had become a "scourge".

A 40-day trial over summer involving covert police motorcyclists resulted in almost 35 drivers a day being caught using their mobile phones.

Those caught included a father checking his phone then sipping a beer as he drove on Roe Highway with two children aged under 10 and a motorist too engrossed in their phone conversation to notice a police siren.

Tom Davies, who formed road safety group Enough is Enough after the drink-driving death of his friend Luke Beyer, said it was disappointing to see drivers regularly disregarding the law.

"Drink-driving is dropping which is a win, but now driver distraction is the big one," he said. "People need to realise a text or a tweet or a Facebook post can wait until you stop."

The West Australian

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