THE carnage caused by drivers texting behind the wheel could be much worse than the statistics suggest.
Roads Minister Melinda Pavey has warned official data on deaths caused by texting motorists could be just the tip of the iceberg.
Her comments come as the state government today launches a dramatic ad campaign to shine a light on the final SMS typed by fatal accident victims in the seconds before their deaths.
The ads attempt to convey the message that no text is worth the risk. It is an emotive technique that has been used effectively in American campaigns backed by media mogul Oprah Winfrey and phone giant ATT. Victims’ families will join the campaign, which will harness airtime on Ray Hadley’s 2GB radio show in a bid to get the message inside people’s cars.
“One of the issues is we are weak on the data about the number of times a mobile phone is being used at the time of the accident,” Ms Pavey said. “We have some data but I don’t think it’s accurate. I don’t think we know how bad it is.”
Official data shows that between 2008-16 nine people were killed and 71 were seriously injured in crashes on NSW roads where mobile phone use by drivers was identified as a contributing factor.
“We know it’s worse than this,” Ms Pavey said, adding that advances in access to phone records at a federal level was needed to establish a clearer link.
Ms Pavey said she wanted the campaign to change behaviour rather than relying on the “big stick” approach of increasing fines.
“Our road toll is better than it was a decade ago, but we need to do better,” Ms Pavey said.
Vicki Richardson will join the campaign this week, talking about how she lost her 20-year-old daughter Brooke in a fatal crash attributed by the coroner to her texting behind the wheel.
Brooke’s last text was: “are you still going to make it today?”. It was sent to a friend as she drove to work in 2012. Her phone was found at her feet in the car. “Brooke won’t have a wedding. All her girlfriends are having babies now.
“I don’t want another parent to go through this,” Ms Richardson said. Since her daughter’s death, Ms Richardson has devoted her life to raising awareness about texting and driving.
The ad campaign will run for two weeks with ads featuring voiceovers of the text messages.
Ms Pavey said the government wanted to convey the message that when a driver puts their head down for two seconds, their car travels 33m on average.
A brief history of the mobile phone
Last year, 38,913 people were fined for using their phone while driving.
About 70 per cent of those men.
In the year to Friday, 349 people have died on NSW roads.
In the same period last year the number was 345.