Distraction Is A Killer: #Park Your Phone

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On Tuesday, 14th November 2017, I was driving along Rayfield, in Jos the Plateau State capital when I cited a man in his late forties driving close to Atiku junction for those very familiar with Rayfield. Sitting besides the man on the front passenger seat, was a woman whom I suspect to be his wife. Two risky driving behavior of the man caught my attention .On the lap of the woman (mother) was a little boy of about four years despite the warning that children within that age should not sit in the front, rather they should be properly strapped in a car seat which is currently our focus in Jos tagged, CHILD SAFETY AWARENESS CAMPAIGN. Despite this unsafe habit of transporting the 4years child, the man (father) was equally holding his phone with one hand while answering a call which was the second risky driving behavior. My attempt to call him to order was rebuffed as he continued answering his calls and zoomed off. When I got home I kept pondering on why parents or guardians indulge in the use of Phone while driving which I told you last week is a distracted driving habit.

Today I wish to continue with the same focus. But before I do, let me again remind people like the man I cited in Jos, and others who indulge in distracted driving behavior to always reflect on the road traffic crashes statistic recently released by the United Nations which I mentioned last week; it states that 650 people are killed each day in road crashes throughout Africa. I equally drew our attention to the concern raised by the United Nations Special Envoy for Road Safety, Jean Todt, on the projected increase in urbanization, motorization, infrastructure development projects and vehicle ownership in the region over the coming decades and the attendant road traffic fatalities and injuries that will continue to take a rising toll on the continent if no significant changes are made.

Mr. Todt among other interventions called for implementing basic laws such as using seat belts and helmets, child safety seats, and prohibiting drunk drivers. He also stressed the need to have a national vision and leadership in addition to the need to place more resources in collecting data, which can then lead to the development of strategies. He noted that reliable data is also urgently needed to achieve the Decade of Action for Road Safety, which runs through 2019, and the Sustainable Development Goals, which include a target calling for road fatalities and injuries to be halved by 2020, and another target related to safe and affordable access to sustainable transport systems for all by 2030.

Having refreshed your memory with these facts and realities,let me bring you back to the focus which started last week on the need to guard against distracted driving as contained in the ongoing Park your phone while on the road being run by FIA. Incidentally, the UN Special Envoy is also the President of FIA. Hear the Special Envoy speak on this concern when he noted that “Drivers, cyclists and pedestrians need to understand the dangers of using smartphones in traffic. Mr, Jean Todt, said “. Drivers, cyclists and pedestrians need to understand the dangers of using smartphones in traffic. To combat the 3,500 lives lost every day in road accidents, I urge all road users to park their phones when they are in traffic ”as only a few seconds of distraction can make a difference between life and death. The FIA #ParkYourPhone, campaign is aimed at encouraging responsible smartphone use in traffic.

His concern was supported by the European Commissioner for Transport, Violeta Bulc who equally spoke on the dangers of distracted driving especially driving and using the phone . Here is what the Commissioner said; “With smartphones becoming more popular than ever, it seems increasingly difficult to take our eyes off the screen. In fact, distracted driving is the cause of a growing number of road deaths and injuries. It is vital that we keep our attention on the road. As Transport Commissioner, road safety is one of my ongoing priorities. A simple way to reduce accidents is to keep your eyes on the road and off your smartphone. I support FIA Region I’s initiative and this is my message to all road users: park your phone, keep the road safe.”

The host of the campaign, MEP Koch shared their concern as he said that, “Europe has done a lot to improve safety, be it on technical improvements of the vehicles, better training for road users or infrastructure. But new technologies, such as smart phones and tablets, bring about new challenges. I welcome this event very much, because it encourages everyone to remember that a moment of distraction can be fatal.”FIA Region I Director General, Laurianne Krid, said: “There are many ways to be active in traffic, from a young to an older age. FIA Region I and our member Clubs believe that lifelong learning is key to ensure the safest roads. This campaign reminds us of the many distractions that cross our path on a daily basis and encourages everyone to #ParkYourPhone and remain focussed on the road while in traffic.”

The campaign which took place in Place du Luxembourg in Brussels is to be launched across Europe, the Middle East and Africa in countries such as France,Portugal, Slovakia,Denmark,Belgium,Czech Republic,Lebanon and Tanzania among others. The campaign targets motorists such as drivers,pedestrians and cyclists putting themselves at risk by using phones in traffic. Such users are encouraged to stay focused on the road. They hope to raise awareness about distraction and the dangers of being distracted. The campaign will raise more awareness about distraction and show dangers of being distracted.

I know that some readers would dismiss my appeal but as promised last week here are some shocking facts from the United States where daily, approximately 660,000 drivers are attempting to use the phones while driving.

While acknowledging the value of smartphones, you must also be alert on the dangers of trying to multitask by driving and phoning because cell phones distraction rates are high and alarming. Recent statistics from the National Safety Council reports that cell phone use while driving leads to 1.6million crashes yearly; while nearly 330000injuries occur yearly from crashes caused by texting while driving. It further says that 1 out of every 4car crashes in the US is caused by texting while driving. The council further states that texting while driving is 6x more likely to cause a crash than driving drunk while answering a text takes away your attention for about five seconds. The statistics notes that texting on the wheel causes a 400%increase in time spent with eyes off the road noting that of all phone related risks, texting is by far the most dangerous activity.