Reducing driver distraction, including distraction resulting from mobile phone use, is an aim of New Zealand’s Safer Journeys programme.
Currently mobile phone usage by New Zealand drivers is captured by self-report or observational surveys. However, studies have indicated that these methodologies might be under-representing actual usage rates.
The aims of this study were threefold: first, to establish how drivers’ mobile phone usage has been monitored worldwide through a review of relevant literature; second, to assess whether there was an improved method for monitoring mobile phone usage through a review of available equipment; and, finally to conduct a trial of the identified method to evaluate whether it could improve mobile phone monitoring in New Zealand.
Trial results show that a mobile phone detector did not identify all observed mobile activity. However, roadside observers detected a lower level of mobile phone usage in passing vehicles (5.5%), compared with the mobile phone detector (9.6%), meaning that up to 43% of mobile phone use is not detected by the existing visual observation methods.
Further testing is required to resolve the gaps between roadside observations and equipment detection, but there is evidence that observational methods of mobile phone detection could be enhanced through technological solutions.