We’ve all heard our mother or father’s voice from the passenger seat of the car screaming about “hands at 10 and two” or “turn your bloody phone off”.
But like many young drivers, I have always said “just let me drive, she’ll be right”. After all, when you are in your late teens or 20s, you know it all.
Well, much to my horror and embarrassment, an experience last week has taught me it really won’t be right.
I’ve just had a go on a driving simulator to find out how using a mobile phone affects my driving.
Setting off on the simulator, I was cruising along country roads and merging on to the highway with ease.
But then I took my phone out and tested texting while driving. I did all right on the back roads, just slow a little around the bends and taking a glimpse at the phone every now and again.
My confidence was pretty high at this point, so I came to the highway merge point, flicked on my indicator — and nearly got cleaned up by the back end of a semitrailer.
When the brakes stopped screeching, I merged into the lane, but I was rattled. So rattled in fact that I cut off the old lady in the car behind me.
Once I got going again, I decided to see if I could make a phone call and completely missed my turn-off. This is where things went from bad to downright lethal.
I restarted on the highway, but ended the call, determined to get my confidence back to where I started.
No sooner had I left the highway than I over-corrected on a bend and spun out on both sides of the verge, finally coming to a halt on the grass.
Now, I can only imagine what that would have felt like in a real car. I got out of the simulator’s driver’s seat feeling sorry for myself and a tad embarrassed, but had that been a real car, I may not have walked away at all.
Now, I’m not saying that I drive around using my phone all the time but, if we’re honest, we all have some cheeky moments. We can’t just consider the act of looking at the phone.
I had my most significant crash after putting the phone away and trying to refocus on driving. But that split second of not thinking about what I was seeing or doing was enough to end my journey.
A total of 160 people died on WA roads last year, 99 of those on regional roads, with a high number of these in the Wheatbelt where I grew up.
I can say vehemently that even a quick call or text isn’t worth the risk. Take it from a young man who now knows he really doesn’t know it all.