Reporter: Tara Brown
Producers: Stephen Taylor, Julia Timms
We know we shouldn't. But come on, admit it we do it, don't we. Many of us break the law by using our mobile phones while we're driving.
It's just too tempting to have a chat or send a text. And we bet most offenders think they can do so quite safely behind the wheel. The truth is you can't.
The latest research shows that if you drive and talk on the phone - hand-held or even hands-free you're four times more likely to crash. Text, and the risk is eight times higher. Eight times. Still don't get it, well just watch on Sunday night.
And we should mention this story starts with a bang, an explicit scene that shows exactly what can happen.
For more information on Safe Drive Training Australia, visit their website:
Full transcript below:
STORY - TARA BROWN: Young people happily using their mobile phones while driving. But, when it goes wrong, the aftermath is so harrowing, and so violent it's almost impossible to watch. It's a new campaign designed to get the attention of distracted drivers, to shock them into switching off their phones. The shock tactics might seem extreme but we no longer just use our car to get from point 'A' to point 'B'. It's become a mobile office, a portable entertainment complex. You know, there's the GPS, the MP3 player, the DVD player in the back and, with wireless technology, there's also the internet and email. With all these gadgets there's almost no time to keep your eyes on the road. But, as you're about to see, the biggest distraction, the most dangerous of all, is the mobile phone.
STACEY HOUSE: I've got two great passions, which are horse riding and modelling.
TARA BROWN: Confident, invincible, full of dreams.
STACEY HOUSE: I got the opportunity to go over to America some time this year, but I had to put it off, due to work commitments.
TARA BROWN: 17-year-old Stacey House never got the chance - another young life taken in yet another car accident, unexpectedly and much too soon.
TERRY HOUSE: I guess even the simple things, like remembering her voice. Yeah, they're the hard things, you know. Just the little things that are hard.
TARA BROWN: For her sister Kelly and her father, Terry, Stacey's death is made more difficult by knowing she died following a silly, but tragic, distraction. It was late at night, in the outer suburbs of Melbourne. Stacey was the passenger. She and the young female driver, Kim, were chatting to another friend on the mobile. It seems they were jostling over the phone just moments before the accident.
TERRY HOUSE: The last words that Stacey said on the phone was, "Kim, you're a psycho." We can only guess that perhaps that Kim's reached across to grab the phone out of Stacey's hand and, being a little, small front-wheel drive vehicle, I think that she's probably turned the steering wheel at the same time to grab the phone and the vehicle left the road and hit the tree.
KELLY HOUSE: I can't help but think what if there wasn't any phones, maybe, you know, it wouldn't have happened.
TARA BROWN: So you think Stacey would be alive today if there wasn't a mobile phone in the car that night?
KELLY HOUSE: I would definitely think so. Absolutely. Yep.
TARA BROWN: The research is sobering. Just talk on your mobile while driving and you're four times more likely to crash. But it's easy to dismiss how distracting mobiles can be until you're tested.
PROFESSOR DAVID STRAYER: One of the things that we know that is a problem when people get distracted is they don't look where they should look.
TARA BROWN: Using his high-tech simulator at the University of Utah, Professor David Strayer is assessing how impaired my driving becomes when I use my mobile phone - talking and texting. And, it doesn't matter how hard I try, I'm living proof of what Professor Strayer's research shows. Text and drive and you're eight times more likely to crash. You simply can't keep your eyes on your phone and the road at the same time.
PROFESSOR DAVID STRAYER: Pretty much everybody that I have ever spoken with has a personal experience of seeing somebody who's driving down a road, looks like they're drunk, they almost get run over, maybe they even see an accident and, lo and behold, the person hasn't been drinking - they've just been intoxicated by using a cell phone.
TARA BROWN: In fact, they're even more dangerous than drink-drivers. Professor Strayer has found if you text and drive you're substantially more likely to crash than if you have a blood alcohol level of 0.08 and drive.
PROFESSOR DAVID STRAYER: Text messaging, your crash risk is about twice what you'd see if you were driving while drunk.
TARA BROWN: So, can you say you're twice as dangerous?
PROFESSOR DAVID STRAYER: In terms of accidents, yeah. Your accident risk is twice as high, yeah.
TARA BROWN: 21-year-old Patrick Sims would never have driven while drunk, but he did drive and text all the time until an awful accident four years ago.
PATRICK SIMS: When I looked at myself in the mirror, kind of, kind of 'murderer' was kind of looking back.
TARA BROWN: What is it like to be responsible for taking another person's life?
PATRICK SIMS: I never thought I'd be in this situation, never did I ever think I'd be responsible for taking someone else's life.
TARA BROWN: His name was Jim Price and he was 63, a father and grandfather who was out riding his bike. Patrick was behind the wheel and was responding to a text message when his car hit Jim.
PATRICK SIMS: And the next thing I know, I hear my girlfriend at the time screaming, so I obviously look up to see what she's screaming at and, at that point, was when Jim, the bicyclist, was in front of my car and he was so close, the only thing that I could think of at that time is, "I'm going to hit him."
TARA BROWN: How often had you driven and texted in the past?
PATRICK SIMS: It was a common thing. It wasn't like a once or twice thing and it happened on the third time. It was a daily event, talking on the phone, texting on the phone. It wasn't anything I gave a second thought to.
TARA BROWN: Four years on, even moving interstate, Patrick still struggles to get on with his life. Community service, house arrest and gaol time can never extinguish Patrick's silly mistake.
TARA BROWN: Can any text, can any conversation be worth the risk?
PATRICK SIMS: Absolutely not. I think almost every day just if I wasn't sending that text, things would be so different. That one text.
TARA BROWN: That's all it takes?
PATRICK SIMS: Exactly.
TARA BROWN: Patrick got the message too late but, clearly, he's not alone. It seems mobile phone are just too convenient to be considered dangerous. Is there an element that people are addicted to these things now?
SAM MORLEY: Oh, they're definitely addicted. They're addicted to being able to call and text and, you know, everything else. If you're lost, you're going to pick up that GPS so quickly without a second thought for your safety because your first priority is going to be to get there.
TARA BROWN: Certainly, 25-year-old Sam Morley, a self-confessed gadget addict, has ignored the dangers. She's been pinged three times for using her mobile while driving. Driving instructor Joel Neilsen is trying to shock some sense into her by showing how her reaction times are affected when distractions are thrown in - operating a GPS, and talking and texting on her mobile. It's a simple experiment but the results are clear.
JOEL NEILSEN: We did come very close to killing our hypothetical people out there. And, you know, the ball rolling out, which could have been a person stepping out from behind that parked car, did get hit one or two times which could have been a person seriously injured.
TARA BROWN: So have you learnt anything from this exercise?
SAM MORLEY: Yeah, I think it's definitely made me think about what I do in my car and the effects that it could have if disaster struck.
TARA BROWN: For those of you who still don't get the message, or think you're a better driver than Sam Morley, think again. For proof, we enlisted the help of Australia's best driver.
TARA BROWN: Touring car champion 26-year-old Jamie Whincup gets around the obstacle course faster than Sam, but add a few distractions, and even his speed and ability are affected.
JAMIE WHINCUP I couldn't quite get through the slalom course anywhere near as well. I couldn't change gear either, and that's without having to indicate, without having to check my mirror, do all those other things that we do on a normal day's drive. So, certainly, well-incompetent once a mobile phone rings.
TARA BROWN: If you feel safe because you do the right thing, you follow the law and only use your mobile in a hands-free unit while driving well, then, there's more bad news. The latest research has found that any phone conversation will increase your risk of crashing. It's not about whether you have two hands on the wheel, it's about the brain being on the road. It's all about concentration. So, hands-free units are just as dangerous as holding onto your phone while driving.
PROFESSOR DAVID STRAYER: Hands-free cell phones are no safer. You're not any faster. You're just as likely to be involved in accidents with a hands-free cell phone as a hand-held cell phone. In both cases, when you're driving, if you're talking on the phone, what you see, what your eyes register, what your brain registers and what you can react to is substantially reduced, and that's the reason why you get the kinds of accident rates that we see.
TARA BROWN: But maybe Canadian businessman John Geyer has a way to stop distracted driving accidents. He's developing Drive Assist - a phone that, through satellites, senses you're driving and blocks all calls and texts while you're on the move, and the caller is told why they can't reach you.
TARA BROWN: OK. So I get options and you get nothing. You don't even know I'm trying to call you. No ringing?
JOHN GEYER: Absolutely. It keeps it all and everything's in your court now.
TARA BROWN: That's right. So, no fumbling around, looking for your phone in the back or worrying about who's trying to contact you?
JOHN GEYER: Exactly. You're able to drive responsibly and keep your eyes on the road.
TARA BROWN: Stacey House's sister Kelly rarely comes to this back road. It's where Stacey died. The driver survived, but doesn't remember the crash. But, for Kelly and her father, Terry, it's impossible to forget the terrible cost of one distracted moment - all over a mobile phone.
KELLY HOUSE: I swear it was only yesterday that she was here. Yet, on the other hand, it feels like a lifetime since I've seen her.
TERRY HOUSE: It's indescribable the pain that you go through and just, you know, the living day-to-day with the loss of a child. You know, I just I just want to get that message across - driving and mobile phones don't mix. They need to learn to put the phone away, away from temptation.