A new survey of 20,000 motorists indicates the number Australians seen chatting on their cell phones while behind the wheel of their moving vehicle has stayed about the same over the past five years.
The study by researchers from Austin Health, published in the Medical Journal of Australia, found 1.6 percent of drivers surveyed were on handheld phones compared with 1.8 percent in 2002.
However the head of the study group, Professor David Taylor, says the fact more people now owned a cell phone should be taken into account.
The survey in 2002 was among 17,000 drivers compared to the 20,207 motorists observed in 2006, he said.
"There were a whole stack more of mobile phones actually in the cars that we observed," Taylor said. "So drivers had more of an opportunity to use their mobiles, yet the rate decreased slightly, which is encouraging."