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Phone-disabling software should be used in government cars

15 March 2017

Story from ABC news.

The Australian federal government is being urged to lead by example when it comes to reducing the numbers of drivers using their phones while behind the wheel.

It follows a continued spike in the road death toll, with mobile phone distraction labelled the leading cause of road fatalities, ahead of speeding and drink-and-drug driving.

Lachlan McIntosh, the head of the Australian College of Road Safety, said Australia had to apply the disabling technologies, "the sooner the better".

He said technology that disables the phone while it's connected by BlueTooth to the car — already working in some forms in the United States — was available in Australia.

"There is a range of other devices — a bit like alcohol interlocks," he said, referring to technology that forces a driver to pass a breath test before the car can be started. So, the phone providers, the phone manufacturers and the car manufacturers are capable of doing it.

"I don't think it is a matter of forcing motorists, it is about encouraging the providers of the technology to recognise that this distraction is a distraction, and it is causing harm to motorists and to other people on the roads."

He said the text-disabling technology had been bought by some companies and used in their cars, and called for the government to do the same.

"The federal government could make it compulsory in all federal government cars," he said.

"There are ways to incentivise new technologies that reduce the harm. I think instead of just blaming the driver we should do more than that — we should encourage the providers of the technology and the providers of the services to be part of that conversation.

"It is about having a sensible conversation with the telcos, with the car companies, so that the driver can't see the text messages, they don't receive them. Emergency calls are still possible, but we need to find technological solutions, as well as behavioural ones."

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