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Phone-using motorists cause fatal accidents

Many drivers indulge in many incorrect road use habits. A major one is the use of GSM handsets while driving. Drivers not only receive calls…

Many drivers indulge in many incorrect road use habits. A major one is the use of GSM handsets while driving. Drivers not only receive calls but attempt to make calls and even send text messages. One wonders how anybody can multi-task while driving and still have the required amount of attention needed to control the vehicle.

Regardless of the fact that many drivers believe and sometimes get away with this act, the distractions arising from phone use while driving have resulted in numerous ghastly and even fatal motor accidents. Despite the increasing benefits of the use of mobile phones, there is no iota of doubt in the fact that their use while driving has wreaked a lot of havoc everywhere that happens. Many lives and property have been lost through several preventable accidents due to distractions from using phones while driving.

When you are on the freeway and suddenly see a car slow down regardless of what lane it is driving on, you can rest assured that the person is talking on the phone or trying to send a text message with such gadgets. Talking and texting on mobile phones are the most frequently talked-about concerns involving accidents and distracted driving, with texting now taking the lead over concerns about drivers who talk on their cell phones while operating a vehicle.

Among the concerns that cell phone use raises is that drivers often become so engrossed in their conversation that it distracts them from paying attention to the road. Several research studies have found that even intense listening on a cell phone can impair a driver’s attention on the road. Mobile phone use, even with a hands-free device, can create a situation where drivers develop a potentially lethal form of tunnel vision that creates what researchers call ‘inattention blindness.’

While both are obviously hazardous, texting on cell phones is now considered an even more serious problem than talking, because it requires looking down at the message that the sender is creating while moving fingers that should be on the steering wheel.

In addition to not looking where they are going, text message senders are usually focused on their message and not on their driving. Experts argue that taking your eyes off the road for even one to two seconds can make the difference between avoiding a crash and causing one.

Following an incidence which occurred on February 1st, 2010, where a driver killed four staff of Julius Berger and left a fifth in a critical state due to distraction from using his phone while smoking and driving, the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC) has reiterated the fact that the use of phones while driving is an offence.

The Head of Public Education Unit, Commander Adebayo Obayemi, said, “The use of phones while driving is one of the 38 criminal offences of a road user and therefore should be avoided at all cost. Defaulters are fined N4,000 and undergo public education. The most important issue here is not the payment as what happens in case of a crash.

Adding: “It is impossible to tell the statistics of such accidents and defaulters, because we are still in the process of collating records nationwide.” He said the driver from the incidence of February 1st has since been charged to court.”

Mr Kolawole Lekan, a Special Marshal with FRSC who is also a licensed driver in the United Kingdom for 20 years and Nigeria till date said, “I have observed that as many as are guilty of this particular road crime in Nigeria, younger drivers are guiltier of it. Distraction due to text messaging by young and inexperienced drivers has a lethal combination.”

He however said that kids are a big distraction for drivers. “I have seen parents feeding a child who was unrestrained in the front seat. She used her right hand to try and find his mouth with the spoon. Another time, I followed a weaving vehicle where the male driver was physically beating a kid in the backseat with his belt. The kid was jumping from side to side trying to avoid the flaying belt, Kolawole said.

He stated further that some other distractions that are common with undisciplined drivers are caused thorough the use of radios and stereos, which have gotten a bit better in cars now since some of the controls are on the steering wheel. More and more cars have video monitors to entertain passengers, but you would be surprised how many people try to watch TV in their cars while driving. For any male driver, an attractive female pedestrian is always a distraction,” he said. 

There have been cases of vehicles veering off their lanes into the bush, ditch or even colliding with oncoming vehicles because the drivers lost concentration while using mobile phones. Many innocent pedestrians have been killed by drivers that lost control while making or receiving calls on their mobile phones.

There was a very sad incident that occurred along Mabushi to Banex Junction in Abuja some weeks ago. A woman lost control while answering a call on her mobile phone and crossed to the other lane. Meanwhile, an oncoming heavy duty truck driver was approaching and there was a terrible collision with the car.

There’s no doubt that having a mobile phone with you when you’re travelling is a great resource to use in calling for help or reporting trouble on the road. But whether you use a handheld phone or a hands-free device, researchers and safety specialists agree that the only really safe way to use your phone – whether to call or to text message – is to safely pull off the road, stop and then make your call or text your message.

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