The Rise of Nomophobia and its Impact on Road Safety

Last week, the findings from TAC’s annual Road Safety Monitor Report were published in the Herald Sun. Surprisingly, 29 percent of motorists admitted to illegally using their phone while driving in the previous three months. MUARC Director Professor Stuart Newstead spoke to 3AW’s Neil Mitchell about these findings, as well as similar findings recently reported by MUARC related to distracted driving and ‘nomophobia’ (i.e., the fear of being without a mobile phone).

Professor Newstead described the well-established risks associated with illegal mobile phone use whilst driving, especially when drivers engage in tasks like texting which require them to take their eyes off the road and their hands off the wheel. He also noted that the phenomenon of nomophobia is increasing. Indeed, Professor Newstead noted that many people have become more dependant on their mobile phones because it was their principle means of communication during lockdowns, which for some people, has resulted a large amount of anxiety associated with not being able to use it.

Neil Mitchell asked whether people with nomophobia will suffer symptoms such as an increased heart rate and high blood pressure when they’re driving because of not being able to use their phones. Professor Newstead agreed that this could be is a possibility as some people may feel they need to be constantly interacting and connecting with the world, however that it’s not entirely about “not having the phone but rather not having a connection that causes their anxiety.”

Listen to the whole radio interview here or by playing it below.

Further reading on this topic can be found in Dr Fareed Kaviani’s Monash Lens article, “Disconnect between drivers and mobile phone use” and his peer-reviewed publication, “Using nomophobia severity to predict illegal smartphone use while driving”.


3AW Recording of Stuart Newstead and Neil Mitchell:


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