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Avid car mobile users beware
Even though you may have some sense of accomplishment for mastering the art of sending an SMS message while driving, this false sense of multi-tasking can have a critical impact on your life and those around you. If traffic fines are not reason enough to stop you in your tracks when talking or SMSing on the road - the dangers accompanied by this illegal action may just put a halt to this bad habit.
Although, talking on your mobile phone without a hands-free device is considered illegal in South Africa, ‘distracted driving’ is regrettably legal. According to Arrive Alive, “… distracted driving is a broad term that includes a wide variety of driving behaviours. You can be distracted behind the wheel by talking on a mobile phone held in your hand, talking on a phone using an earpiece, or talking on a phone using a hands-free system embedded in your car.” The manageable risk of communicating while driving is still under scrutiny, with vehicle manufacturers and the wireless industry in unity about the fact that messaging has the potential of creating dangers on the roads beyond our belief.
The latest South African Accident Report (December 2011) makes no mention of any accidents caused by mobile phone usage, specifically. An international survey by Arrive Alive, found that amongst 837 drivers with mobile phones, almost half swerved or drifted into another lane, 23% had tailgated, 21% cut someone off and 18% nearly hit another vehicle while using a mobile phone while driving.
According to the AA (Automobile Association), the occurrence of motorists using cellphones while driving is growing. In peak morning traffic on any given day, it was identified that 7.2% of the 2500 driver’s observed were holding and using their mobile phones while driving (this excludes hand free devices). The biggest concern is the lack of brain capacity to react to external stimuli. It is estimated that 50% of drivers look, but fail to see while using a mobile device and driving. Studies have shown that drivers talking on a mobile device are four times more likely to be involved in a crash compared to drivers who are not.
Teenagers are under particular risk - according to research the average U.S. mobile teen now sends or receives an average of 2,899 SMSs per month, many of which are sent and read from behind the wheel of a car.
Apart from SMS reducing the reaction time of drivers, as well as decreasing the ability to keep a safe following distance. Drivers also tend to wander across lanes unknowingly and increase the chances of tailgating or cutting people off while on a mobile device.
It is the role of each parent to not just discuss the dangers of using mobile phones in cars, but also to model how mobile phones should be used. Here’s a quick guide of rules to LIVE by when discussing this with your children:
- While driving, keep your phone in the cubby hole or in your handbag - this way you can’t reach for it while driving. If the temptation to look at your phone whenever you hear a notification persists, consider putting your phone on silent or even in the boot of your car before you start driving;
- When you receive an SMS notification or call - let it beep or ring - and move on! It is better to reply or return the call at a later stage. Don’t jeopardise your own and your passengers lives’ by taking that usually unimportant call/message.
- If you have to send an SMS, ask a passenger to do it for you or pull the car over at a safe location and finish SMSing before you start driving again; and
- Make your car a ‘no-phone-zone’ by putting up a sign in the car that will remind yourself and your family of the dangers you face when you become a distracted driver.