Pulling over to the side of the road to make or receive a phone call can have fatal consequences and can put drivers at greater risk of an accident than legally using their phone hands-free.

Under the Australian road rules a driver can only use their mobile phone to make handheld calls if the car is legally parked.
 
But misguided advice that the best strategy is for drivers to pull over to the side of the road to make or receive mobile calls fails to acknowledge the potential unintended consequences and risks of such actions. 
 
In Australia we have already seen one example of the serious consequences of advising drivers to pull over to answer a mobile phone when driving.

Pulling over to talk on a phone can be deadly

On the 24th March 2010 the media reported a Sydney driver was killed when he may have pulled over into the M7 emergency lane to answer his mobile phone.  Tragically the car he was in was hit from behind by a semi-trailer and crushed.
 
Had the driver continued to drive along the M7 freeway and legally used his phone either in a cradle or using a Bluetooth or wired hands-free device set up to allow single button or voice activated calling, this fatality could have been avoided.
 
In late 2012 the NSW government released a Breakdown Safety Guide to build awareness about breakdown situations after a string of fatal crashes in emergency lanes.
 
The State Government said there had been a slow but steady rise in roadside fatalities with 146 crashes in emergency lanes between 2007 and 2011, resulting in eight deaths and 104 injuries. Preliminary crash data for 2012 (up to midnight 11 December) showed there were four breakdown crashes in 2012 with five people killed.
 
UK accident statistics show one in ten motorway crashes involve vehicles parked on the hard shoulder and road safety authorities advise (pdf) drivers that:
  • The risk of a fatal or serious accident to an occupant of a parked vehicle is about 3 times that of driving along the freeway
  • 32% of accidents on the side of the road or hard shoulder are fatal or serious, compared with 13% of all motorway accidents
  • On average around 50 people every year are killed or seriously injured in hard shoulder accidents in the UK
In the United States 2,000 fatal accidents occur along the shoulder of roads each year and law enforcement agencies strongly discourage this practice.
 
In the US, in 2006 the FBI reported that 121 officers were fatally hit by vehicles between 1996 and 2005 and that one officer is killed each month, on average, from being struck by a motor vehicle.
 
Clearly drivers are confused about what constitutes the safest course of action due to the many mixed messages they receive from road safety authorities and the police.
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