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New tool helps drivers with ‘cellphone addiction’

Photo: File/SunLive.

Students across the country are taking a stand against using phones while driving, and promoting a new e-learning tool to help Kiwis front up to their ‘cellphone addiction’.

Students Against Dangerous Driving (SADD) say it’s the perfect time for Kiwis to reassess their in-car cellphone habits with Road Safety Week kicking off today.

The Drive In The Moment tool was created on the back of new research out of Australia which found drivers are well aware of the dangers of using cellphones, but a quarter of them still do it. One in ten admitted to using social media while driving.

SADD became involved with the initiative through the AA, which is a major sponsor of the student-led road safety group. The tool was researched and developed through the Australian Automobile Association, with New Zealand assisting with funding and survey participants.

AA research foundation manager Simon Douglas says while the research focused on younger drivers, “in fact drivers of all ages are tempted by their phones and this tool can be used by anyone”.

The Australian findings equate with the NZAA’s own member surveys, in which 14 per cent of drivers admit to using cellphones while driving, and for 18 to 24 year olds it is as much as 36 per cent.

SADD national manager Donna Govorko says Drive In The Moment is a helpful tool, as it not only teaches people why cellphones are so hard to leave alone, but also allows users to make an individually-tailored plan – whether that’s to try resist using entertainment apps, checking social media feeds at traffic lights, making calls or sending messages while driving.

It also sends users reminder emails about the change they’ve agreed to, which family members and friends can also receive to check their buddy is sticking to their pledge.

“Like other compulsive behaviours, checking our cellphones is a hard habit to break,” says Donna.

“People think they can multi-task, but cellphones take more of our attention than we realise and when you’re driving that can be fatal.

“Drive In The Moment’s plan-builder and reminders are modelled on approaches for addictions like smoking and gambling. Ongoing reminders of what you said you’ll do create new pathways in our brains over time.”

SADD national leaders have trialled the toolkit and are encouraging other students to make a plan and share with parents to influence everyone’s driving behaviours.

Ashleigh Putt Fallows, a year 12 student at Southland Girls’ High School, says, “This tool helps you to acknowledge and think about your own driving habits and make a plan to change. Distracted driving is on the rise due to more leaps in technology. This app could really help to shift mindsets.”

Carlin Lee, a year 12 student at Tuakau College, says the tool is a great way to target individual cellphone behaviours.

“When are you most tempted to use your mobile phone in a car? Is it at traffic lights? Is it in a traffic jam? Is it to change the music? By selecting an action that applies most to you, it will help you make a plan to break your habit.”

Official crash data shows driver distraction contributed to 16 deaths on New Zealand roads, 136 serious injuries and 1,079 minor injuries last year, but international research indicates that it is likely to be a factor in many more crashes than reported.

“The risks of using your phone are real and can destroy multiple lives in a moment. A driver was recently convicted for killing a cyclist because he was looking at something on his phone while on a highway,” says Donna.

The tool is available at www.sadd.org.nz/driveinthemoment

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