Lifesavers and Samaritans: emergency use of cellular (mobile) phones in Australia

Accid Anal Prev. 1998 Nov;30(6):815-9. doi: 10.1016/s0001-4575(98)00034-7.


Background: There has been highly publicised concern about possible radiation health effects from mobile phones and towers, but scant attention has been paid to the use of mobile phones in reducing notification times in emergencies.

Method: National random telephone survey of Australian mobile phone users (n = 720) and extrapolation to national user population (n = 5.1 million).

Findings: Using a cellular phone, 1 in 8 users have reported a traffic accident; 1 in 4 a dangerous situation; 1 in 16 a non-road medical emergency; 1 in 20 a crime; and 1 in 45 being lost in the bush or being in difficulty at sea.

Interpretation: Any debate about the net health impact of mobile phone proliferation must balance possible negative effects (cancer, driving incidents) with the benefits from what appears to be their widespread use in rapidly reporting emergencies and in numerous acts of often health-relevant 'cellular Samaritanism'.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Traffic / prevention & control
  • Accidents, Traffic / statistics & numerical data
  • Australia
  • Emergencies*
  • Helping Behavior*
  • Humans
  • Sampling Studies
  • Telephone / statistics & numerical data*