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RACQ push for mobile phone blocking in cars

CHAT-happy Queensland motorists could have communication cut off behind the wheel, with calls for new phone-blocking technology to be fitted to cars.

More than one-third of the 270 fatal car accidents in Queensland last financial year were linked to mobile phone calls, texting and other distractions.

Experts say tackling the explosion in smartphones on the roads will require smarter technology, not more police crackdowns.

Queensland and overseas researchers are developing technologies to either block mobile phone signals in cars or encourage sensible driver behaviour.

One product dubbed the "black box" is available overseas and marketed to parents and employers who own car fleets.

Founder and CEO of the Australian Road Safety Foundation (ARSF) Russell White said that new cars should be built with phone-blocking capabilities, while older cars could be fitted.

"Without a doubt, if it comes through the production line it's easier to do," Mr White said.

 "It should be part of the standard equipment, another part of the design of cars."

He said some car manufacturers were investigating two-key systems so children driving their parents' cars could not operate phones.

Professor Simon Washington, from the Queensland University of Technology's Centre for Accident Research and Road Safety, said about 40 per cent of Queensland drivers admitted to flouting the law - it is illegal to have a phone in your hand while driving - on a daily basis.

Prof Washington said Queensland researchers were exploring the possibilities of an app that could monitor driver behaviour and be available within two years .

The product could potentially check driver speed, fatigue and phone use and could be linked to rewards such as discounts on vehicle registration.

"Imagine a future where you get feedback on how you drive and you get points if you're a good driver, sort of like frequent flyer points," Prof Washington said.

He said only a small percentage of drivers were caught by police, which was why it was necessary for technology to step in.

RACQ spokesman Steve Spalding said drivers should put their phones entirely out of reach because even a ring tone was a distraction.

The RACQ will launch a YouTube video on driver distraction before Christmas, as it pursues a campaign to have the Fatal Four expanded to include driver distraction as No.5.

"We are very much of the view that it is a driver's responsibility to stay safe and not be distracted by phones of activity," Mr Spalding said.

"You need to discipline yourself not to look at the phone or take a text.

"Phones are always with us and for many people, it's just too much."

Steve Spalding
COMMENT: RACQ spokesman Steve Spalding is quite unrealistic in his comments.  Why should passengers be prevented from taking or making calls while in a car?  You can be sure that current technology cannot differentiate as to whose phone it is.

The RACQ has weighed-in on a very serious issue but it deserves more than just the usual glib comments the RACQ regularly serves up.

And if a ring tone is a distraction Steve, what about car radios or raucous stereo systems?  What is the RACQ doing or saying about those?  Or backseat drivers -  which can be the biggest distraction of all!