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Tough penalties for texting, Facebook use while driving come online

By Charlotte Harper - 31 August 2016 40

Shane Rattenbury, left, and Peter Frazer, right, discussing distracted driving.

While announcing new penalties in force in the ACT from tomorrow under which checking Facebook, texting or using an app while driving could cost you $511 and four demerit points, ACT Road Safety Minister Shane Rattenbury has described a near-miss he had while jogging on a Canberra road recently.

Mr Rattenbury said people who text or use Facebook or mobile apps while driving were not only putting themselves in danger, but placing other road users in danger too.

“From my own recent personal experience, just two weekends ago, I was out jogging and I crossed the road with a green pedestrian symbol to go, and a driver was using his mobile phone just drove straight through a red light, just as I went to cross the road,” Mr Rattenbury said.

“It was a personal lived example of the sort of dangers we are seeing on the road.”

Joining Mr Rattenbury at an event this morning to raise awareness of the new penalties was Peter Frazer, the founder of National Road Safety Week, whose daughter Sarah was killed by a distracted driver in 2013.

Mr Frazer said Australians’ obsession with connection was becoming a growing contributor to “completely avoidable carnage”.

“Just last week, Professor Rebecca Ivers noted that smart phone use is now so pervasive that ‘for many people driving or walking seems to be a distraction from their use of social media’,” Mr Frazer said.

“While it may be akin to an obsessive-compulsive disorder, use of your smart phone while driving always remains your choice. While you may be willing to put your life at risk, this foolish and unnecessary behaviour may result in some innocent person being maimed or killed. Putting vulnerable lives at risk is simply intolerable and I am pleased that the Minister and ACT Government have drawn a line in the sand.

“By increasing fines and demerit points, coupled with targeted education and enforcement campaigns, the ACT has sent a clear message, especially to novice drivers; your distracted driving is dangerous driving! If you can’t control your unhealthy behaviour, you may be back to asking mum or dad for a lift.”

The new penalties are separate to the existing offence of talking on the phone which carries a $416 fine and three demerit points.

ACT Government research has found that 13 per cent of ACT drivers admit to using a handheld mobile phone while driving – with four per cent of those drivers stating that they do this all the time.

Be honest, do you ever text, check Facebook or use an app on your phone while driving?

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Mr Rattenbury said the four demerit points for this offence would result in the loss of licence for provisional drivers who have not completed the Road Ready Course and increased their demerit point threshold to eight points.

“Your text or Facebook message can wait until you arrive safely at your destination. So be patient, stay safe and put your phone away until you get there,” he said.

About 90 per cent of traffic infringement notices issued for driver distraction in 2015 were for mobile phone offences, according to ACT Policing.

So far this year, police have issued 725 Traffic Infringement Notices and 313 Cautions for using mobile phones while driving making a total of 1038 drivers caught for using mobile phones while driving so far this year.

About 40 per cent of drivers issued with a Traffic Infringement Notice for using their mobile phone provided police with a reason. Of those, half said they used their phone to take or make a call. About half said they used it for something other than calling, such as GPS maps, music controls, checking the time, texting, emails and social media.

Pictured are ACT Road Safety Minister Shane Rattenbury, ACT Policing Traffic Operations Acting Station Sergeant Steve Booth and National Road Safety Week founder Peter Frazer.

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Tough penalties for texting, Facebook use while driving come online
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devils_advocate 10:34 am 08 Sep 16

Mordd / Chris Richards said :

Mysteryman said :

Mordd / Chris Richards said :

Mysteryman said :

This is a stupid ‘initiative’. We already have laws against, and penalties for, using a phone while driving. The reason they are seen to be ineffective is because they aren’t policed. The police presence on ACT roads is pathetic, at best. So instead of actually funding police to do a better job, ACT Labor GovCo has decided that making the laws scarier will be enough to dissuade people from breaking them. It won’t be. The intelligent solution would be to increase police presence. But we all know that the ACT Labor GovCo aren’t interested in spending money to increase road safety. They simply want a larger revenue stream under the false pretence of safety.

Also, on the subject of using a phone to control music… How is that any different to playing with the controls on the dash mounted stereo?

Knobs and dials are considered much safer to interact with while driving than touchscreen controls, since generally the latter can be operated entirely by feel whereas a touchscreen requires looking at it or using voice commands and some looking at it.

I am still curious what the specific exception for Taxi Drivers and Uber drivers is though, since they both interact with their phone regularly while driving.

1. According to who? A user still needs to take his/her eyes off the road and focus attention elsewhere to operate a standard stereo in most cars that are less than 20 years old – just like they would a phone playing music.

2. Most cars these days have very few (if any) “knobs and dials” other than volume (which is still used when adjusting the volume coming from an aux source like a phone).

Without ever taking my eyes off the road and entirely by feel with my left hand I have and I do:

* Turn the volume up or down
* Turn the stereo on or off
* Change the radio station playing with a preset button
* Change to ipod (which automatically starts playing then) or back to radio

Same as I also change the aircon from heat to cool, or from hands/feet to windscreen, or turn on the rear demister or the hazard lights without ever having to look.

For a few months while I was learning my car? Yeh, I had to look then, but since then, no. What else do I need to change on the stereo while driving? Need to change the playlist on the ipod altogether? Then I do it stopped at the lights – it’s not a mobile phone so this is allowed right? – or I pull over and do it. Same as if I needed to retune the station manually for some reason.

A lot of newer cars are replacing a lot of controls with touchscreens yes, I think this is bad, you cannot navigate them by feel really, and rely largely on voice commands and the occasional fast glance. I do not look forward to the day when i am eventually unable to maintain an old knobs and buttons stereo and controls in my car and have to use a modern touchscreen interface insteadd, hopefully by then the voice commands will work way better and it won’t be as bad.

One of my cars has the volume controls on the steering wheel, and some other buttons that I don’t use.

Mysteryman 10:33 am 08 Sep 16

Mordd / Chris Richards said :

Mysteryman said :

Mordd / Chris Richards said :

Mysteryman said :

Mordd / Chris Richards said :

Mysteryman said :

This is a stupid ‘initiative’. We already have laws against, and penalties for, using a phone while driving. The reason they are seen to be ineffective is because they aren’t policed. The police presence on ACT roads is pathetic, at best. So instead of actually funding police to do a better job, ACT Labor GovCo has decided that making the laws scarier will be enough to dissuade people from breaking them. It won’t be. The intelligent solution would be to increase police presence. But we all know that the ACT Labor GovCo aren’t interested in spending money to increase road safety. They simply want a larger revenue stream under the false pretence of safety.

Also, on the subject of using a phone to control music… How is that any different to playing with the controls on the dash mounted stereo?

Knobs and dials are considered much safer to interact with while driving than touchscreen controls, since generally the latter can be operated entirely by feel whereas a touchscreen requires looking at it or using voice commands and some looking at it.

I am still curious what the specific exception for Taxi Drivers and Uber drivers is though, since they both interact with their phone regularly while driving.

1. According to who? A user still needs to take his/her eyes off the road and focus attention elsewhere to operate a standard stereo in most cars that are less than 20 years old – just like they would a phone playing music.

2. Most cars these days have very few (if any) “knobs and dials” other than volume (which is still used when adjusting the volume coming from an aux source like a phone).

Without ever taking my eyes off the road and entirely by feel with my left hand I have and I do:

* Turn the volume up or down
* Turn the stereo on or off
* Change the radio station playing with a preset button
* Change to ipod (which automatically starts playing then) or back to radio

Same as I also change the aircon from heat to cool, or from hands/feet to windscreen, or turn on the rear demister or the hazard lights without ever having to look.

And I can changes tracks and albums on my phone without having to look at it. Which goes back to my original point – it’s not necessarily any more dangerous despite the panicked increase of threats and fines from Labor ACT GovCo.

If you mean by having it locked in a mount AND out of hands reach AND only using voice controls, then I think that should be allowed. If it is mounted securely out of reach and only interacted with using voice, I think this is the only time/way you should be allowed to use a phone while driving. I don’t accept you can touch a touchscreen accurately without looking though, and if it’s in touch reach, the temptation to then use it for unnecessary and distracting stuff is there and then you can’t prove or disprove if it was being used safely or not. If you are happy to have it mounted say directly in front of the passenger side though and only use it with voice commands, then I support your right to do this specifically.

It’s irrelevant if you “accept” that I can do it or not. The fact is, I can. And we’re not talking about the temptation to make calls or do other things – you’re muddying the water and skirting around the issue that using it for music is no different than using a stereo/touchscreen stereo in a car.

Mordd / Chris Richards 11:57 pm 07 Sep 16

Mysteryman said :

Mordd / Chris Richards said :

Mysteryman said :

Mordd / Chris Richards said :

Mysteryman said :

This is a stupid ‘initiative’. We already have laws against, and penalties for, using a phone while driving. The reason they are seen to be ineffective is because they aren’t policed. The police presence on ACT roads is pathetic, at best. So instead of actually funding police to do a better job, ACT Labor GovCo has decided that making the laws scarier will be enough to dissuade people from breaking them. It won’t be. The intelligent solution would be to increase police presence. But we all know that the ACT Labor GovCo aren’t interested in spending money to increase road safety. They simply want a larger revenue stream under the false pretence of safety.

Also, on the subject of using a phone to control music… How is that any different to playing with the controls on the dash mounted stereo?

Knobs and dials are considered much safer to interact with while driving than touchscreen controls, since generally the latter can be operated entirely by feel whereas a touchscreen requires looking at it or using voice commands and some looking at it.

I am still curious what the specific exception for Taxi Drivers and Uber drivers is though, since they both interact with their phone regularly while driving.

1. According to who? A user still needs to take his/her eyes off the road and focus attention elsewhere to operate a standard stereo in most cars that are less than 20 years old – just like they would a phone playing music.

2. Most cars these days have very few (if any) “knobs and dials” other than volume (which is still used when adjusting the volume coming from an aux source like a phone).

Without ever taking my eyes off the road and entirely by feel with my left hand I have and I do:

* Turn the volume up or down
* Turn the stereo on or off
* Change the radio station playing with a preset button
* Change to ipod (which automatically starts playing then) or back to radio

Same as I also change the aircon from heat to cool, or from hands/feet to windscreen, or turn on the rear demister or the hazard lights without ever having to look.

And I can changes tracks and albums on my phone without having to look at it. Which goes back to my original point – it’s not necessarily any more dangerous despite the panicked increase of threats and fines from Labor ACT GovCo.

If you mean by having it locked in a mount AND out of hands reach AND only using voice controls, then I think that should be allowed. If it is mounted securely out of reach and only interacted with using voice, I think this is the only time/way you should be allowed to use a phone while driving. I don’t accept you can touch a touchscreen accurately without looking though, and if it’s in touch reach, the temptation to then use it for unnecessary and distracting stuff is there and then you can’t prove or disprove if it was being used safely or not. If you are happy to have it mounted say directly in front of the passenger side though and only use it with voice commands, then I support your right to do this specifically.

Mysteryman 10:51 am 07 Sep 16

Mordd / Chris Richards said :

Mysteryman said :

Mordd / Chris Richards said :

Mysteryman said :

This is a stupid ‘initiative’. We already have laws against, and penalties for, using a phone while driving. The reason they are seen to be ineffective is because they aren’t policed. The police presence on ACT roads is pathetic, at best. So instead of actually funding police to do a better job, ACT Labor GovCo has decided that making the laws scarier will be enough to dissuade people from breaking them. It won’t be. The intelligent solution would be to increase police presence. But we all know that the ACT Labor GovCo aren’t interested in spending money to increase road safety. They simply want a larger revenue stream under the false pretence of safety.

Also, on the subject of using a phone to control music… How is that any different to playing with the controls on the dash mounted stereo?

Knobs and dials are considered much safer to interact with while driving than touchscreen controls, since generally the latter can be operated entirely by feel whereas a touchscreen requires looking at it or using voice commands and some looking at it.

I am still curious what the specific exception for Taxi Drivers and Uber drivers is though, since they both interact with their phone regularly while driving.

1. According to who? A user still needs to take his/her eyes off the road and focus attention elsewhere to operate a standard stereo in most cars that are less than 20 years old – just like they would a phone playing music.

2. Most cars these days have very few (if any) “knobs and dials” other than volume (which is still used when adjusting the volume coming from an aux source like a phone).

Without ever taking my eyes off the road and entirely by feel with my left hand I have and I do:

* Turn the volume up or down
* Turn the stereo on or off
* Change the radio station playing with a preset button
* Change to ipod (which automatically starts playing then) or back to radio

Same as I also change the aircon from heat to cool, or from hands/feet to windscreen, or turn on the rear demister or the hazard lights without ever having to look.

And I can changes tracks and albums on my phone without having to look at it. Which goes back to my original point – it’s not necessarily any more dangerous despite the panicked increase of threats and fines from Labor ACT GovCo.

Mordd / Chris Richards 3:15 am 07 Sep 16

Mysteryman said :

Mordd / Chris Richards said :

Mysteryman said :

This is a stupid ‘initiative’. We already have laws against, and penalties for, using a phone while driving. The reason they are seen to be ineffective is because they aren’t policed. The police presence on ACT roads is pathetic, at best. So instead of actually funding police to do a better job, ACT Labor GovCo has decided that making the laws scarier will be enough to dissuade people from breaking them. It won’t be. The intelligent solution would be to increase police presence. But we all know that the ACT Labor GovCo aren’t interested in spending money to increase road safety. They simply want a larger revenue stream under the false pretence of safety.

Also, on the subject of using a phone to control music… How is that any different to playing with the controls on the dash mounted stereo?

Knobs and dials are considered much safer to interact with while driving than touchscreen controls, since generally the latter can be operated entirely by feel whereas a touchscreen requires looking at it or using voice commands and some looking at it.

I am still curious what the specific exception for Taxi Drivers and Uber drivers is though, since they both interact with their phone regularly while driving.

1. According to who? A user still needs to take his/her eyes off the road and focus attention elsewhere to operate a standard stereo in most cars that are less than 20 years old – just like they would a phone playing music.

2. Most cars these days have very few (if any) “knobs and dials” other than volume (which is still used when adjusting the volume coming from an aux source like a phone).

Without ever taking my eyes off the road and entirely by feel with my left hand I have and I do:

* Turn the volume up or down
* Turn the stereo on or off
* Change the radio station playing with a preset button
* Change to ipod (which automatically starts playing then) or back to radio

Same as I also change the aircon from heat to cool, or from hands/feet to windscreen, or turn on the rear demister or the hazard lights without ever having to look.

For a few months while I was learning my car? Yeh, I had to look then, but since then, no. What else do I need to change on the stereo while driving? Need to change the playlist on the ipod altogether? Then I do it stopped at the lights – it’s not a mobile phone so this is allowed right? – or I pull over and do it. Same as if I needed to retune the station manually for some reason.

A lot of newer cars are replacing a lot of controls with touchscreens yes, I think this is bad, you cannot navigate them by feel really, and rely largely on voice commands and the occasional fast glance. I do not look forward to the day when i am eventually unable to maintain an old knobs and buttons stereo and controls in my car and have to use a modern touchscreen interface insteadd, hopefully by then the voice commands will work way better and it won’t be as bad.

gazket 10:12 pm 06 Sep 16

Why Facebook? I would think people with poor driving abilities would be more prevalent on Myspace.

If it’s so dangerous why were there 313 Cautions, perhaps they were all Labor senators.

wildturkeycanoe 5:59 pm 06 Sep 16

Kiriel said :

There are so many things drivers do that is akin to using their mobile phone in terms of distraction – smoking a cigarette, drinking a cup of coffee, grabbing a stick of gum to chew, using a GPS, changing the channel on the radio, screaming at the kids in the back seat etc.

The big difference is that anything on the dash can be quickly looked at for a second, then dealt with whilst you continue to look at the road. To read something on a phone requires a lot more time and that few seconds or more distraction can be the reason you veer off the lane or run up the back of somebody. Because people try to hide their phone on their lap, they lose their periphal view of the road, so it is more dangerous than looking at a screen up on the dashboard.
I still wonder why this can’t be policed in the same way as speed cameras, perhaps with a unit mounted up on one of those useless illuminated notice boards. Penalties without resources to catch people in the act are just pointless. More police needed on the roads.

Mysteryman 4:30 pm 06 Sep 16

I should also add that there are loads of newer cars that use touchscreen controls for the stereo/GPS unit. So I fail to see how it’s considered so much more dangerous to use one and not the other.

Mysteryman 4:28 pm 06 Sep 16

Mordd / Chris Richards said :

Mysteryman said :

This is a stupid ‘initiative’. We already have laws against, and penalties for, using a phone while driving. The reason they are seen to be ineffective is because they aren’t policed. The police presence on ACT roads is pathetic, at best. So instead of actually funding police to do a better job, ACT Labor GovCo has decided that making the laws scarier will be enough to dissuade people from breaking them. It won’t be. The intelligent solution would be to increase police presence. But we all know that the ACT Labor GovCo aren’t interested in spending money to increase road safety. They simply want a larger revenue stream under the false pretence of safety.

Also, on the subject of using a phone to control music… How is that any different to playing with the controls on the dash mounted stereo?

Knobs and dials are considered much safer to interact with while driving than touchscreen controls, since generally the latter can be operated entirely by feel whereas a touchscreen requires looking at it or using voice commands and some looking at it.

I am still curious what the specific exception for Taxi Drivers and Uber drivers is though, since they both interact with their phone regularly while driving.

1. According to who? A user still needs to take his/her eyes off the road and focus attention elsewhere to operate a standard stereo in most cars that are less than 20 years old – just like they would a phone playing music.

2. Most cars these days have very few (if any) “knobs and dials” other than volume (which is still used when adjusting the volume coming from an aux source like a phone).

Mordd / Chris Richards 1:51 pm 06 Sep 16

Sorry: meant to say “the former” not “the latter” ^^

Mordd / Chris Richards 1:50 pm 06 Sep 16

Mysteryman said :

This is a stupid ‘initiative’. We already have laws against, and penalties for, using a phone while driving. The reason they are seen to be ineffective is because they aren’t policed. The police presence on ACT roads is pathetic, at best. So instead of actually funding police to do a better job, ACT Labor GovCo has decided that making the laws scarier will be enough to dissuade people from breaking them. It won’t be. The intelligent solution would be to increase police presence. But we all know that the ACT Labor GovCo aren’t interested in spending money to increase road safety. They simply want a larger revenue stream under the false pretence of safety.

Also, on the subject of using a phone to control music… How is that any different to playing with the controls on the dash mounted stereo?

Knobs and dials are considered much safer to interact with while driving than touchscreen controls, since generally the latter can be operated entirely by feel whereas a touchscreen requires looking at it or using voice commands and some looking at it.

I am still curious what the specific exception for Taxi Drivers and Uber drivers is though, since they both interact with their phone regularly while driving.

Kiriel 12:50 pm 06 Sep 16

There are so many things drivers do that is akin to using their mobile phone in terms of distraction – smoking a cigarette, drinking a cup of coffee, grabbing a stick of gum to chew, using a GPS, changing the channel on the radio, screaming at the kids in the back seat etc. Seems to me that really the issue is dangerous driving and that the one misdemeanour covers them all.

Mysteryman 12:25 pm 06 Sep 16

This is a stupid ‘initiative’. We already have laws against, and penalties for, using a phone while driving. The reason they are seen to be ineffective is because they aren’t policed. The police presence on ACT roads is pathetic, at best. So instead of actually funding police to do a better job, ACT Labor GovCo has decided that making the laws scarier will be enough to dissuade people from breaking them. It won’t be. The intelligent solution would be to increase police presence. But we all know that the ACT Labor GovCo aren’t interested in spending money to increase road safety. They simply want a larger revenue stream under the false pretence of safety.

Also, on the subject of using a phone to control music… How is that any different to playing with the controls on the dash mounted stereo?

Mordd / Chris Richards 2:20 am 06 Sep 16

Oh yes ^^ driver was around 50-60 also, not just young people doing this. And they were driving one of those modern massive 4WD rangerovers (spotless of course, bet it’s never seen mud or real dirt) and that would have decimated my poor tiny cars front end if they had run into me like almost happened.

gooterz 1:07 am 06 Sep 16

Mordd / Chris Richards said :

Well, going along a 60k suburban street tonight (yes a 60k feeder street, not the 50k street) and as I went round the corner, car coming the opposite way toward me also doing 60, halfway into my lane driving right on the middle of the centre lane marking. Slammed on brakes, horn and swerved up onto someone’s driveway partially to avoid them, of course they fly past me and clearly holding up their phone in their right hand and typing away on it. Seems we do need to tighten up these laws after all. I am lucky not to be taking my car to a mechanic tomorrow now.

The problem is that Canberra drivers are that bad even without a phone.

The number of people that can’t stay between two lines Is shocking. However speed camera’s and parking fines don’t stop it. What stops it is cop cars on the road and actually stopping bad behaviour rather than just speeding or running red lights.

The issue is that it takes more time to issue bad behaviour tickets, Its almost like we pay the police a commission to catch drivers. They can do heaps of speeding fines parked on the side of the road. Yet it would require them to actually drive around and educate people on road use.

Saw a young lady forget to stop at a red last week narrowly missed two oncoming cars. her reaction ‘Whoops’ hand on mouth and just kept going.

Driving at night you can’t tell the drunks from those half asleep. swerving in and out of lanes. Its a wonder people aren’t killed!

Mordd / Chris Richards 9:54 pm 05 Sep 16

Oh yes ^^ driver was around 50-60 also, not just young people doing this. And they were driving one of those modern f*** off massive 4WD rangerovers (spotless of course, bet it’s never seen mud or real dirt) and that would have decimated my poor tiny cars front end if they had run into me like almost happened.

Mordd / Chris Richards 9:52 pm 05 Sep 16

Well, going along a 60k suburban street tonight (yes a 60k feeder street, not the 50k street) and as I went round the corner, car coming the opposite way toward me also doing 60, halfway into my lane driving right on the middle of the centre lane marking. Slammed on brakes, horn and swerved up onto someone’s driveway partially to avoid them, of course they fly past me and clearly holding up their phone in their right hand and typing away on it. Seems we do need to tighten up these laws after all. I am lucky not to be taking my car to a mechanic tomorrow now.

gooterz 8:58 pm 05 Sep 16

carnardly said :

as a cyclist that uses the on road lane on a number of intersections, i could erase the national debt in a week for spotting texters.

using the lights at Melrose/Hindmarsh as an example, often traffic is banked back a couple of hundred metres when the lights are red. So i’m scooting past the stopped cars in the bike lane and see approx 1 in 4 using their phones. so if you slow, or look at them through the passenger window they just put it down in their right hand out of sight…

errr, too late son. Busted.

Some of them just can’t go one set of lights without using their phone and the meercat head is a great giveaway. You know you shouldn’t be doing it. Put it down. it could be me you kill.

Do you also stop at the red?

Curious. If you are seen with a device that isn’t a phone is it still an offence? where is the line drawn when parked, is it like drunk with keys that if your phone is there you might have used it and get stung?

What is the increased risk when actually using a phone at parked lights? it seems like the 10 km speed limits in car parks. No one really obeys it.

or the 40km/h zones.

or the 1.5 metre cyclist rule.

If these are all done as pilot tests and none of them are really enforced is that really a success for the pilot? or is the pilot just another way to say phased implementation?

Add to that the number of other useless laws like the bag ban, several places still give away free plastic bags. Yet others suffer though and charge for them.

We banned factory farming.. We don’t even have any.

How come you can’t get arrested for being sleepy behind the wheel? would that make it too obvious we don’t have a night time bus service.

rosscoact 12:42 pm 05 Sep 16

carnardly said :

as a cyclist that uses the on road lane on a number of intersections, i could erase the national debt in a week for spotting texters.

using the lights at Melrose/Hindmarsh as an example, often traffic is banked back a couple of hundred metres when the lights are red. So i’m scooting past the stopped cars in the bike lane and see approx 1 in 4 using their phones. so if you slow, or look at them through the passenger window they just put it down in their right hand out of sight…

errr, too late son. Busted.

Some of them just can’t go one set of lights without using their phone and the meercat head is a great giveaway. You know you shouldn’t be doing it. Put it down. it could be me you kill.

Same for me as a motorcyclist.

If you see an idiot wandering in their and the adjoining lane, it’s almost certain to be a phone user. Have you noticed how many more people are beeping at traffic lights these days? Every single lagger at the lights is engrossed on whatever facile crap is on their phone.

It’s not always young people either.

Great initiative IMHO

devils_advocate 11:37 am 05 Sep 16

Laurel said :

If the use of phone while driving was in fact such a dangerous thing, one would have expected an increase in deaths and accidents over the last years, especially as smartphones beacame more standerd.

Nope. A number of factors are likely to have reduced the fatality rate, particularly increases in vehicle safety (better brakes, airbags, crumple zones for pedestrians, etc). The gains in vehicle safety might well have been offset by increased accidents as a result of driver distraction.

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