Mobile Phones and Driving

The GSM Association (GSMA) recognises that driving safely is of paramount importance to everyone on today’s busy roads.

The GSMA believes that mobile devices should be used responsibly at all times and many of our member companies are supporting driver safety initiatives.

Here are some key points on phone use by drivers:

  • Obey the law: In some countries [1] it is prohibited to use handheld phones.
  • Drive safe: Don’t make or accept calls in difficult traffic conditions.
  • Don’t text: Don’t write or read texts, emails or access the Internet from a laptop or handheld device.
  • Stay in control: Avoid or end calls that are likely to be long, complex or emotional.

Where handsfree use is permitted for voice calls, it alone doesn’t make using a mobile device while driving safe. Drivers should consider road conditions and other factors before making or accepting a call. It may be sensible to pull-over (if this can be done safely) or wait until your trip is complete before making or taking a call.

A driver simulation study by the Monash University Accident Research Centre in Australia found that that on average drivers took their eyes off the road for about 0.9 seconds while text messaging, compared to about 0.3 seconds when not [2]. In 0.9 seconds a car would travel 15 m at 60 km/hr or 25 m at 100 km/hr, almost 4 or 6 car lengths respectively.

The message is clear don’t write, read or send texts while driving.

There are many technical features such as short codes, voice activated dialling and other speech based applications, for example, navigation tools, that can minimise the physical distractions associated with mobile device use. There are also smartphone applications intended to restrict phone usage when driving.

For Policy Makers

There is a significant body of research showing that distractions are a major cause of motor vehicle accidents. Distractions may include eating, smoking, applying make-up, dealing with noisy passengers, tuning car radios and operating CDs, outside objects and use of mobile phones.

Some countries have additional restrictions on mobile phone use by inexperienced or young drivers so that they can focus on the primary task of driving safely before they engage in any secondary task.

There may also be restrictions for certain groups of professional drivers such as school bus and other passenger vehicles.

The 100-car naturalistic driving study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute collects pre-crash and near-crash naturalistic driving data. By comparing distractions during normal driving to distractions during crashes and near-crashes, estimates were made of the relative risk of drivers when distracted.

They found that certain behaviors increased the risk of involvement in a near-crash or crash. Reaching for moving objects increased risk 9 times, looking at an external object 3.7 times, reading 3.4 times, applying makeup 3 times, and dialing a hand-held device 2.8 times. Talking or listening to a hand-held device increased risk by 1.3 times, but this result was not statistically different than normal driving.

These results and other studies show that it is important for road safety authorities to inform the community of the dangers of all forms of driver distractions and inattention.


  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mobile_phones _and_driving_safety
  2. Hosking, S.G., Young, K.L., & Regan, M.A. (2006). The effects of text messaging on young novice driver performance Monash University Accident Research Centre, Australia, Report #246. Average car length estimated as 4 m.

Driver Safety Initiatives

Here we highlight some of the initiatives by GSMA members to encourage responsible mobile phone use by drivers. It does not capture all initiatives and we welcome additional examples by sending an email to health@gsma.com.

at & t  Vodaphone T-Mobile Verizon


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