Young drivers taking selfies behind the wheel while using popular social media app BeReal are risking their lives, experts have warned.
The app randomly sends a message to all users at the same time once a day saying ‘Time to BeReal’ — a prompt to ‘document’ what they are doing ‘no matter where you are’ with both a selfie and front-facing picture.
But a scroll through the app’s Discovery page, where users can view public posts, reveals drivers around the world aren’t waiting until they’ve stopped their engines to document the moment.
PR coordinator Alex Smith isn’t religiously ‘Real’ — her BeReals, usually taken at house parties or from her couch, aren’t always on time, but the 22-year-old from the Shire has seen friends post from Sydney’s notoriously busy roads.
“Someone I know posted when they were doing something like 80km/h… you could see the speedometer in their photo,” she said.
The app’s random daily alert gives users a two-minute window to take their snaps.
“People doing that [in the car] are probably more committed to posting in the time limit than I am,” Smith said.
BeReal has experienced a meteoric rise in popularity, particularly among Generation Z, with more than 50 million downloads this year so far. In the year to July the app grew by 315 per cent, with over 20 million people accessing it daily and 73 million using it each month.
NRMA spokesman Peter Khoury described using BeReal while driving as “outrageous”.
“You’re risking losing your life because you’re taking a photo when an app tells you to,” he told Central News.
Khoury added learner driver training courses were constantly evolving to keep up with tech updates and crazes, but he had a simple instruction for young drivers: “If the temptation is so great, put the phone in the boot or the glovebox.”
If you look at your phone for just two seconds while travelling at 60km/h, you’ve travelled 33 metres virtually blind.
In NSW, Learner, P1 or P2 licence holders cannot use their phone while driving for any reason, and every state and territory in Australia has fines for all drivers using a mobile, for anything other than audio and map services, while driving.
“Young drivers are particularly vulnerable… because they are still developing their driving skills and experience,” Transport for NSW’s Deputy Secretary for Safety Tara McCarthy said.
“If you look at your phone for just two seconds while travelling at 60km/h, you’ve travelled 33 metres virtually blind.”
According to 2020 data from Transport for NSW’s Road Safety Centre, crashes involving a driver or rider using a hand held mobile phone have resulted in 18 deaths and 271 injuries since 2012.
Such incidents are thought to be underreported due to the difficulty of finding evidence of phone use at crash scenes.
A 2017 NRMA report into the impact of smartphone distractions, ‘Can’t Talk. Driving’, found 15 per cent of its members surveyed believed they were unlikely to get caught if they used their phones illegally.
Since then, NSW has become the first Australian state to introduce phone detection cameras across the road network, with artificial intelligence software detecting potential offenders before a human image review.
Dozens of cameras, both fixed and transportable, operate across the state.
“You will get caught, you will lose your licence,” said Khoury.
BeReal did not respond to requests for comment.
Main image montage from BeReal.