Simulator highlights phone risks

Using a mobile phone while driving could have potentially fatal consequences, based on testing done by _The Weekend West _ in a high-tech driving simulator.

Five people, with driving experience from one to 45 years, used their mobile phones while driving in the $1 million simulator.

And, according to instructor Paul Starling, their actions could have led to serious accidents that could have killed them, their passengers or other motorists.

"There is no doubt that their driving deteriorated when they began to use their mobile phones," he said.

"They drifted across their lanes and there was a marked fluctuation in their car speeds.

"The drifting could have caused serious accidents, either side-swiping another car or hitting a barrier or median strip."

The testing also had an impact on the participants.

Journalist Laura Morris, who has been driving for about 13 years, said she had been aware of the dangers of mixing mobile phones and driving.

"But nothing prepared me for the level of distraction and extreme loss of control I experienced in the simulator when texting - a 60km/h difference in speed on a 100km/h freeway road and straddling three lanes," she said. "If I had been driving behind me, I'd have assumed I was handling the vehicle while drunk.

"This has changed my view on things for ever. We've all done it - sat at those lights and sent a sneaky text or set the sat nav.

"But not for me, any longer. Whatever that message is, no matter how important, it's simply not worth my life. Or worse - much, much worse - someone else's."

Road Safety Minister Liza Harvey said the testing reinforced that it was extremely dangerous to use a phone while driving, whether it was sending a text message, checking an email or updating a Facebook status.

"Is sending a text message worth the significantly greater risk of crashing your car causing serious injury or worse?" she said. "I've asked the Road Safety Council to look into whether using a mobile phone, running a red light and indeed any other driver infringements should be included in double demerit weekends."

The simulator was brought to WA by Wangara driver training company SimTech Training. It is designed to replicate the look, feel and response a driver would expect in various situations.

Businesses have used the simulator to test the driving skills of employees.

There is also value in parents getting teenagers tested, especially in simulated night driving and driving in rain.

The West Australian

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