THE MADNESS  CALLED MOBILE PHONE

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I do not envy Dr Boboye Oyeyemi, the Corps Marshal of the Federal Road Safety Corps but I admire his recent crackdown on the craze on our roads which will be our focus next week.Some call it the new craze in town.For others,it is the voque,the  status symbol.It comes in all shades;blackberry or Samsung or whatever. Truth is that these latest invention for freaky phone lovers are a delight to behold.For the mobile man,it  provides all the tools to run your business on the move but for us in the Federal Road Safety Corps,mobile phone  is a killer because of the level of abuse seen daily on the wheels and this  craze  doubles by the day and scares me stiff.Check out  the average mobile users especially the ones who own cars.One trait  among them is their mannerism on the wheels even though a good number display gross ignorance of relevant traffic rules and a diehard penchant for violating these rules.

This trait is no respecter of sex,education,tribe or height or even looks.Whether the user lives on the highbrow Lekki,Ikoyi or Victoria Island,be it banana Island or maybe Douglas road in Owerri,Imo State or even Nyanya in the Federal Capital Territory the show off is the same.All mobile phone users have their peculiar swag-attitude.Daily on the road,in all manner and shades of vehicle,they flount their new toy as they text,email,chat,phone,brouse the facebook,take pictures and do all sorts in the name of displaying their new status.Some are bold enough to display this’’craze’’right inside the premises of the Federal Road Safety Corps and would go to any length to deny their act when caught.The major highways are not even spared by them despite the speed craze by most drivers.Even in the church during services,they do same.

Section 4;sub section z (ff) of the Federal Road Safety Commission, (Establishment) Act, 2007,  prohibits making or receiving phone calls while driving. In fact, it was because of this ugly trend that as sector commander in the federal capital territory a couple of years ago that, i introduced a compulsory psychiatric test for such offenders at the national hospital, in addition to one-week public enlightenment. You would be shocked to know that a good number of those arrested were found mentally unstable.Even the ongoing crackdown has revealed a lot which I hope to treat next week

Today, the use of phone while driving, reading and sending text messages on the wheel has become the vogue all over the country. In abuja, it is the pastime for even drivers still struggling to master their grip on the steering. In lagos, kaduna, kano and other cities, the madness has even caught up with okada riders and trekkers as they compete with drivers.. Phoning phobia is not just a nigerian problem. It is global. After all, human beings exhibit same mannerisms irrespective or color or race.

In far away england, a derby haulier was slammed four and a half years jail term for causing a fatal crash while talking on a bluetooth headset. According to Care on the Road, a publication of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, Marvyn Richmond, aged 49,was so engrossed in a conversation with his mother that he failed to notice traffic ahead of him had come to a standstll, and ploughed into the back of the queue, killing a passenger in the van. He was jailed after being convicted at lincoln crown court for causing death by dangerous driving. Richmond, an hgv driver for 25- years was oblivious to all around him, because of the 23- minutes call to his mother and did not even apply the brakes of his scania hgv before ploughing into the traffic. Michael buston was killed outright, his brother-in-law, peter long was badly injured, and the driver of the lorry at the front of the queue, andrejz matkowski, lost both arms.

According to the report, the fact that he had both hands on the wheel did not alter the fact that he was severely distracted by talking on his blue tooth headset. The use of hands free, according to thetransport research laboratory, makes drivers four times more likely to have an accident, with concentration levels reduced for 10 -minutes after the call had ended. The report also showed that drivers making hands-free calls had slower reaction times than those who were slightly over the drink limit. This case is similar to an incident in abuja, except that no life was lost and nobody jailed although the act cited above in section 20 now provides a 7-years jail term for anyone who causes death by dangerous or reckless driving.

In the United Kingdom, around 30 deaths on the roads each year are linked to mobile phone use even though the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accident (ROSPA) believes this is “just the tip of the iceberg” because so few drivers admit to using mobile phones when they cause crashes. Back home, the scenario is not different. However, statistics available to the Federal Road Safety Corps, Lagos Sector Commandindicates that in the year 2008, about 372-offenders were arrested for driving and phoning as at December 22.In 2009, the figure was  381. Some have crashed in the process. Some were lucky while others ended up with injuries or death. Despite these,the urge to own a blackberry has become the most dangerous virus. It is hoped that the new FRSC regulations, which makes it illegal not to report an accident, would no doubt improve data collections with respect to crashes caused by phoning and driving if only we own up to our daily blunders on the wheels.

Like I said earlier, the use of phone while driving, reading and sending text messages on the wheel has become the vogue all over the country even though the Traffic Act of 2004,  says DONT USE YOUR PHONE WHILE ON THE WHEELS. Unfortunately,four out of five drivers in most cities would rather phone, text, chart and E-mail while on the move. Everybody including deviants would rather criticize than take a stand against such driving habits that have claimed lives and maimed others.