for some time, distracted driving, in particular while using a cellphone, was touted as a major challenge to road safety. Potentially it is said to be as problematic as drunken driving.
Yet, according to experts, the increased screen time most people experienced during lockdown has increased cellphone use while driving.
Whether you worked remotely or waited out lockdown at home, most people will admit their cellphone use increased. According to the managing director of South African-based MasterDrive, Eugene Herbert, this tendency can affect driving.
International research conducted by GEM Motoring Assist and Westcotec says greater reliance on one’s digital devices may make it more difficult to put these aside while driving.
“Using your phones to communicate,” according to the research report, “is replacing face-to-face interactions as the new norm. Consequently, more drivers are likely to ignore the dangers of distracted driving and continue using their devices while behind the wheel as it is now a habit.”
The question is, where to from here?
During lockdown there was a massive reduction in crashes and consequent reduction in the strain placed on the GDP and healthcare system. With the reduction in fatalities seen this year, it would be a tragedy for these numbers to skyrocket because of an addiction to technology transferred into the car.
Instead, awareness must be brought to this potential increase in addiction to technology along with emphasising the importance of not using your phone while driving.
Law enforcement agents, including the Federal Rod safety Corps (FRSC) and the police have vital role to play in helping to reduce phone use in the car. But the real change requires drivers to acknowledge the danger themselves. The need to commit to not using phones while driving.
As we begin to enjoy the greater freedoms of lockdown easing, motorists need to make a concerted effort to ensure all remain safe on the roads.
Motorists need to give road safety the same level of importance as they did before the pandemic became a crisis across the world. Ideally, they need to avoid using phones at all especially on a short trip between two destinations.
As Herbert advised, if making phone call becomes unavoidable, motorist should rather use Bluetooth.
“When a call can wait until you arrive at your destination,” he stressed, “do so. Under no circumstances should you go on social media, read emails or send text messages whilst driving. Even glancing at a notification removes your attention from the road for at least 13 seconds, or the time that it takes to travel across a football field.”
A motorist is not different from a blindfolded driver, whenever he or she uses a phone whilst driving. Think of all the things that could go wrong if you were to drive while blindfolded for 13 seconds. That alone should be enough impetus to not pick up your phone whilst you’re driving.
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