Risk-taking motorists have been hit with almost 113,000 fines for using a mobile phone while driving in Victoria in the past three years, clocking up more than $40 million in fines.
But senior police warn the number of fines issued is indicative of a larger, dangerous and sometimes fatal problem.
"Whilst this is significant enforcement, to me, unfortunately, I think it's a drop in the ocean of what's actually going on there. You, me and your readers, see this every single day," said Victoria's top traffic cop, Doug Fryer.
And he warned that society's "thirst for connectivity is killing people", as motorists distracted by mobile phones contributed to the road toll.
"We know that mobile phones were involved in fatalities last year, and already this year we have a number of cases where we know that mobile phone use has been partially responsible for road deaths," he said.
Police were in discussion with State Coroner Sara Hinchey about examining the relationship between road deaths and mobile phone use.
Sixty per cent of Victorian motorists in a recent survey said they use their mobile phone while driving, Mr Fryer said.
The fines issued for mobile phone use over the past three financial years included 107,964 for using a hand-held mobile phone while driving, which incurs a $466 fine and four demerit points.
A further 5015 fines were issued to learner and probationary drivers caught using a mobile phone. It is illegal in Victoria for younger drivers to use even a hands-free mobile phone while driving.
Mr Fryer said the style of offending had changed in recent years with many motorists now using social media or texting while driving.
"Whilst people were offending a couple of years ago by holding the phone to their ear, at least they were still looking straight ahead. Now the style of offending has changed, they're looking in their lap, they're not even having any of their eyes on the road. So it is far more dangerous now than it's ever been," said Mr Fryer, Victoria Police Assistant Commissioner for road policing command.
He said it was "acceptable" for full-licence holders to use a hands-free, Bluetooth-enabled mobile phone Bluetooth while driving.
"We're encouraging everyone to put the phone out of reach, out of sight, out of mind. It will still ring and you can pick it up on Bluetooth. But we don't want people touching their phone because it is having fatal consequences," he said.
Joe Calafiore, CEO of the TAC, said using a mobile phone while driving increased a motorist's risk of "crashing, being injured or worse. Unless you are totally focused on driving, you're not in a position to respond when something unexpected happens. If you look down at your phone for two seconds while driving at 100km/h, you will travel more than 55 meters blind."
Road Safety Minister Luke Donnellan expressed frustration that motorists "continue to put their lives and the lives of others at risk. We want everyone to stop using their phones when driving, getting home safe is more important than a text message.
"You are four times more likely to have a serious crash resulting in hospitalisation if you drive and use your mobile."
Kristie Young, research fellow at the Monash University Accident Research Centre, said using a mobile phone while driving was "very dangerous".
Talking on a mobile phone increased a motorist's reaction time by about 50 per cent. "And when drivers are texting their reaction time doubles," she said.
"We find that drivers, when they're talking on a phone, they tend to stare straight ahead. So it affects their scanning, they don't scan the periphery for hazards and that means that they either miss the hazard or they react to them quite late," she said.