ROAD SAFETY ARTICLE

Patrick Adenusi of Safety without Borders, a Non Governmental Organization (NGO) on road safety is one safety crusader whose passion I admire. Although Patrick is from the South West of the country, we call each other twin brothers from another mother. Patrick, like I said earlier, runs an NGO-Safety beyond Borders. This piece is not about Patrick. However, the title of today’s piece is borrowed from text sent by Patrick who lately bombards me with all sort of materials as his way of keeping me on my toes in the divine assignment of saving lives on our roads. Severally, I have written on the use of phone infraction which has become common place among motorist under titles such as ,the black berry phobia, the black berry craze, the last call, that call can wait and today’s title which like I said was influenced by a recent text message sent to me by my friend and brother, Patrick and the need to alert us as we draw nearer to the December rush which is often categorized by increased violation especially driving and phoning by motorists eager to meet both family and personal expectations.

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‘,Driving or phoning or better still distracted driving is a global concern. Despite the efforts in developed countries, there are still calls by some especially in Countries such as the United States of America for distracted driving to be a legislative priority, devoid of steps referred to by some observers as baby steps. This group maintains that driving and phoning should demand tougher and stiffer penalties just like the case of driving under the influence. They call for penalty points and license suspensions for chronic offenders arguing that,’’ Anyone who spends time behind the wheel sees that today’s fines don’t deter drivers from talking or texting when they should be paying attention to traffic, adding further that it is not the physical act of holding a phone that creates the danger; it’s the mental distraction of a conversation. This group maintains further that drivers do lots more than drive; they talk to passengers, fiddle with the radio or GPS, eat, drink or smoke. But these behaviors don’t match the uninterrupted distraction of a phone call. The multitasking of conversation — speaking, listening and responding — creates “inattention blindness” to the road.

Driving while using a handheld device, whether talking or texting, handheld or hands-free, should be outlawed. The dangers of distracted driving rival those of drunken driving. So should the penalties. In the US, the National Transportation Safety Board recommends a ban on all phones while driving — talking or texting, handheld or hands-free. Polls conducted by the Board showed 64 percent of Americans approved this position. Data sourced from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows that U.S. drivers like their Nigerian counterparts are more than willing to use their mobile devices while behind the wheel, and most believe phone calls have no effect on their driving. The data shows that 77 percent will answer calls while driving; 41 percent say they will make phone calls while 76 percent will say something to a driver texting or e-mailing. The data further shows that 54 percent say talking on a handheld device makes no difference on their driving performance; 40 percent will say something about unsafe driving to a driver using a handheld phone; 25 percent say texting makes no difference on their driving; 10 percent will read text messages while 6 percent say they will send a text. A study on done the Nigerian driving habits will be our focus at a later time.

What is testing while driving? According to WIKIPEDIA, texting while driving is the act of composing, sending, reading, texting messages, and email or making other similar use of web on the mobile phone while operating a motor vehicle. This act is dangerous and has fatal consequences. Globally, the act has been outlawed in some part of the world or restricted. In the United Kingdom, the use of a hand-held mobile or similar the device while driving or supervising a leaner is illegal. This includes when stopped at traffic lights; the only exception is emergency calls. In the Unite States such as Arizoma, Alaska, Alabama, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Georgia, Louisiana and Maryland, among others, texting while driving has been out Lawed.The state of Texas prohibits school bus drivers from texting while transporting a child under 17 years and on October 2009, the United state department of transportation announced President Barak Obama signing of an executive order directing federal employee not to engage in text message while driving government owned vehicles. This according to the department sends clear signal to the American public that distracted driving is dangerous and unacceptable. Texting while driving led to increased distraction behind the wheel. In 2006, Liberty Mutual Insurance Group conducted a survey of more than 90 teens from than 26 high schools. The result shows that 37 percent consider testing to be “extremely” distracting. A studying by the American Auto mobile association discovered that 47 percent of teens admitted to being distracted behind the wheel because of texting. Distraction while driving is alarming because 40 percent of all American teens say they have been in a car when the driver uses a cell phone in way that puts them in danger. 11percent of ages 18 -20 who were involved in a crash and some admitted they send or receiving text when they crashed. In 2010 the national high way traffic safety administration reported driver’s distraction was the course of 18 per cent of fatal crashes with 3,092 people killed and 416,000 people injured.

The risk of crashing while texting increases by 23% because reading or sending text diverts the driver’s eye from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds, the same as driving the length of a foot ball field, at 55 mph. Although taking on the phone while driving is considered dangerous, the risk increases as short message service or texting becomes popular. Many studies have linked texting while driving to series of fatal crashes. The International “Telecommunication Union states that texting, making calls and other interaction with in-vehicle information and communication systems while driving is a serious source of driver distraction and increases the risk of traffic crashes. The Virginia Transportation institute found out that text messaging increases a crash risk 23 times worse than driving while not distracted. Even the use of hands free according to the transport research laboratory, makes drivers four times more likely to have an accident, concentration level reduced for 10 minutes after the call had ended. The report also showed that drivers making hand free calls had slower reaction times than those who were slightly over the drink limit.