‘’CAUTION!!! ALWAYS ADHERE TO TRAFFIC REGULATIONS.OPERATING THE SYSTEM IS AT YOUR OWN RISK AND YOU SHOULD NOT DIVERT YOUR ATTENTION FROM THE ROAD, TRAFFIC OR WEATHER CONDITIONS’’
The above is a pop-up message from a Citreon-C1, 2019 model car. It pops up each time my friend who lives and works in London attempts to set the Google Map for direction. I chose the pop up since the recent drama created by a traffic offender arrested in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja borders on the value of technology and its inherent risk. I have never met her, but she will forever be cherished by me for timely providing the resource for this piece. Before her dramatic media performance on the social media, I had chosen to write add my views on clarifications made by the Federal Road Safety Corps media head, Bisi Kazeem on a statement credited to the Sector Commander of the Corps in charge of the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.
To be candid, I did not read the Sector Commander’s message but was jilted by Kazeem’s clarification and thought the discourse on the issue of phone and Google usage while driving would make a good focus for my column. However, my dear sister arrested in the FCT for traffic infractions added drama to the whole incident by her version of the incident on social media. The abridged version of what I read as her story says,’’ …this is unbelievable!!You see ba, I have an emergency and have requested for a ticket so I can deal with this later but they said No, I must drive to their office. Well ladies and gentlemen, I ‘ve been given a ticket of N4000 payable to Remita. My offence is using GPS. They have my car and my keys and my driver’s licences. When I’m done paying to Remita, then I will be checked into the National Hospital for mental examination for using GPS while driving. The real mad folks are those who believe it is an offence to drive with google map. They called Google map a distraction. So if you are driving in Abuja, ditch the GPS and drive on; get to the middle of the road, stop and ask any Road Safety or Traffic Warder thus; oga where is the direction to Apo, Asokoro or just anywhere you are going. You don’t need direction map. The worst kind of illiteracy is the illiteracy of a government’’
This incident, if I am correct occurred barely 72hours or more after I read Kazeem’s clarifications on the subject. The statement clearly stated that the FRSC as a technology driven Agency is not and has never stood against the use of google map by motorists. He however restated the position of the law which is that any driver who intends to deploy the use of google map while driving must set it on the phone before embarking on the journey, not while the vehicle is on motion as this could be dangerous to the driver and other road users an can lead to road traffic crash. This position is in tandem with global best practices and research findings which states that the use of phone for text, voice calls, chats, browsing, setting google map to find direction etc while driving could be distractive and can easily lead to loss of concentration.
I wish to clarify that she was arrested for using her phone and not for using google map for direction. This is one area I have spent time drawing attention on the inherent dangers of using the phone while driving. I have chosen to allow commentaries by all those involved to throw light on the subject created by our sister. Interesting, the arrest has generated more debates than the clarifications by FRSC. Please allow me to run these commentaries starting with discussions by some Celebrity Special Marshals which I must confess rested the case for me …’’Was she holding on to her phone? if yes, she’s guilty. There are phone holders designed for this purpose so far, your hands are on the steering wheel. Another asked….’’ if it was on the holder and google map popped up alternative quicker route (for those that are not connected to Bluetooth cars) and you operate the phone while on the holder, would it still count? Yes. park. Fix the error and get back on the road was the response. ‘’Is it ok to use Google map while driving or not so we do not fall prey and the response was don’t hold your phone checking Google map while driving… you will be arrested. There is a pouch made for it that sticks to your dashboard. Use that but you must have activated before you started driving.
Just when I was enjoying the engagement on the subject, the offended made a detour in a follow up statement after meeting FRSC denouncing the use of Google map. The post read,…it took the intervention of two road safety guys Adeniyi and Akeem..fine officers I must say. The guys also took me to the office of the Corps Marshal for emotional evaluation waiver. I had a great conversation with the gentlemen and can tell that indeed there are some great guys within the road safety. Believe it ,use of phone while driving whether for Google map or map Google is an offence’’.