By JADE BILOWOL
PULL your act together Gold Coast drivers before more of you kill yourselves or others on the road.
You have claimed the shocking title as the worst offenders in Australia for illegally using mobile phones behind the wheel.
An alarming 64 per cent of Gold Coast drivers have admitted to using a mobile phone without a hands-free kit compared to the national average of 50 per cent, AAMI research comprising claims data and a survey of 1800 Australian drivers has revealed.
Police could only shake their heads at the figures, that also revealed almost one-third of drivers have sent or read a text message while driving, compared to the national total of 24 per cent.
Thirty per cent of Gold Coast motorists also said they regularly used their mobile phones on the road without hands-free kits, compared to 18 per cent nationally.
Coolangatta Police Sergeant Arron Ottaway said statistics showed a high number of vehicle accidents were caused while drivers were distracted by a mobile phone.
Sgt Ottaway said drivers illegally using mobile phones did not only pose a danger to passengers and other motorists but also pedestrians, who were ever-present on Gold Coast streets during the holiday season.
This is particularly so if visitors don't know the roads.
AAMI Queensland spokesman Mike Sopinski said increased police enforcement of tough new laws imposing a $225 fine and three demerit points seemed to fail to drive down the life-threatening behaviour.
"You only have to take a short drive anywhere on the coast to see any number of motorists openly breaking the law," Mr Sopinski said.
Gold Coast Traffic Branch Sergeant Ian Hayden told the Gold Coast Mail last year that Telstra research showed one in three drivers made a call behind the wheel each week and 49 per cent answered the call if it rang.
"We want people to use hands-free kits, they are much safer and cheaper than the cost of other consequences," Sgt Hayden said.
However, the AAMI research found 70 per cent of Gold Coast motorists thought using a hands-free-kit to talk on the mobile while driving could be as distracting as simply talking into the phone.
Mr Sopinski said if motorists found they could not avoid the temptation of answering incoming calls or text messages while driving, they should turn their mobiles off and let the call go through to voice mail.
"Even a momentary loss of concentration as a result of using a mobile can have fatal consequences," he said.
Remember that a simple phone call to pick up some milk on the way home could not only cost you $225 and three demerit points, it could cost you your life ? or someone else's.