US study revealed 30 per cent of young drivers updated their social media status while driving.
As local police crack down on the use of mobile phones behind the wheel, a US survey has revealed another menace on the roads: young people are using the internet while driving.
The poll of 1000 people released by State Farm Insurance found that 48 per cent of drivers under the age of 30 had accessed the internet behind the wheel, and that 30 per cent of young drivers updated their social media status while driving.
It found that young drivers were using the internet while driving, regardless of the risks posed by the distraction.
Joseph Di Gregorio, an analyst for the Australian Communications and Media Authority, said while specific data showing the use of mobile phones by Australian drivers was not available,
many people used mobile devices to access the internet, and "a large number of them would be driving their car".
"You just have to look around ... people check their handset [in the car]," he said.
Mr Di Gregorio said consumers used 6600 terabytes of mobile phone data in the June quarter of 2012 – just 1.6 per cent of the 421,147 terabytes used in total during that period – but that mobile data use was on the rise.
"People are going to be using their mobile phones for a lot more tasks," he said.
"That's a reflection of the internet being critical for daily life."
But the NSW Government says phone use can wait until motorists are safely parked.
New laws that came into effect on November 1 have banned motorists from touching a phone unless it is mounted securely in the vehicle.
Inspector Phil Brooks, NSW Traffic and Highway Patrol operations manager, said people needed to consider the use of phones by motorists in a similar light to drink-driving.
"Using a mobile phone handset whilst driving or riding a vehicle is illegal and dangerous," he said.
"We need to make it like drink-driving ... we need people to have the same attitude about your mobile phone."
Police have issued more than $14 million in fines to 36,000 motorists caught using phones on the road this year.
But a Roads and Maritime Services spokeswoman said it was not possible to provide accurate figures relating to the number of crashes involving phones.
She said at least 60 people had been injured and four people died as a result of drivers or riders using mobile phones in the 18 months to December 2011.
"This is likely to be an underestimation of the actual number of drivers, riders or pedestrians involved in casualty crashes that are using a mobile phone," the spokeswoman said.
"It may be difficult to identify whether a driver was using a mobile phone when they crashed, unless there are witnesses present or the phone-user makes admissions."
Inspector Brooks said police would soon be able to take the guess-work out of whether or not drivers had used a phone before crashing.
"We do use technology to determine whether or not a phone was being used," he said.
"Crash investigators are now looking through phone records in serious injury or fatal crash investigations in order to determine whether or not mobile phone use was a factor."
Crash investigators can also use software to gather post-crash information from some cars in a similar fashion to the "black box" flight recorders used in the aviation industry.
Police have been trained to use Bosch event data recorders, and use of the devices will soon be a common part of investigations.