MORE than 60 per cent of drivers charged during the latest NSW police operation, on July 11, were for mobile phone-related offences. And it is younger drivers who are taking the biggest risks, NSW police figures show.
Since 2007, the number of learner and provisional drivers fined for using a phone while driving has almost quadrupled.
Phone use when driving is becoming a ''very significant factor in accidents and fatal collisions'', said Inspector Phillip Brooks, the operations manager for NSW Traffic and Highway Patrol. He said using a mobile phone while driving needed to become as socially unacceptable as drink-driving.
''We've had two recent fatalities here [in NSW] where the drivers involved have been seen with their heads down texting away and then, upon the incident occurring, phones have been recovered with half-written text messages on them,'' he said.
In one of those accidents, the car hit a truck head on despite the truck driver flashing his lights and beeping his horn. The truck driver told police the driver of the car didn't look up from his phone.
To enforce the law, which prohibits the use of a mobile phone in a car unless it is fitted to an approved hands-free device, police must witness a driver using the phone illegally.
An increasing safety issue is emerging as car makers provide technology to integrate smartphones into models that allow hands-free use for email and social media, which police say can reduce concentration.
Mark Stevenson, the director of the accident research centre at Melbourne's Monash University, said action needs to be taken to reverse the trend.
Using a mobile phone while driving carries a $265 fine and three demerit points in NSW.