Research by Telstra showed that more than a quarter of all drivers surveyed admitted reading mobile text messages while driving. The researchers found that 58 percent of motorists aged 17 to 29 admitted to looking down at their mobile phones to read text messages while at the wheel.
Telstra's head of consumer marketing, Jenny Young, said even if awareness of the dangers of using mobile phones while driving had doubled in the last year, a number of younger drivers still "ignore their better judgement and the law despite knowing the risk."
One in three of all drivers surveyed reported making mobile calls while driving at least once a week and more than half regularly answered their hand-held phone in the car.
"Even a quick conversation on a handheld mobile phone can have tragic consequences. This new research is particularly timely as families and other motorists head to Australia's highways for the long weekend," Young said.
The research also revealed that 62 percent consider the use of mobile phones a major road safety problem, doubling the proportion that took this view in the 2003 survey. The research found that 58 percent of drivers under 30 regularly read mobile text messages and 37 percent regularly send messages while driving.
One third of drivers surveyed who were less than 30 years old believed it was safe to send text messages when at traffic lights. The same proportion of under-30s also felt they could drive "okay" while talking on a handheld mobile, and that it was safe to send a text message when waiting at traffic lights.
Every state and territory in Australia has outlawed the use of handheld mobile phones while driving motor vehicles, even when stopped at traffic lights. The law requires drivers to be be legally parked in a safe place and have the engine turned off, before using a handheld mobile phone. A hands-free device is, however, permitted.
The survey showed that Queensland and Victorian drivers were more concerned about the dangers of using a handheld mobile phone while driving, with 67 percent of drivers agreeing it is a large problem causing many serious accidents.
The survey also revealed that male drivers make calls or answer their mobile phones more while driving compared to female drivers. Men are also more likely than women to feel they can still drive well when talking on a handheld mobile phone.
Mobile users interviewed for the research were spread across NSW, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia, with 150 interviews per state combining both metropolitan and country areas.