ROAD SAFETY ARTICLE
‘’I was 21years old driving home from my college graduation ceremony. Driver on his phone. He was so distracted. He turned left into the intersection and a red light…and another car, an 18-wheeler swerved and missed him and hit my family’s car. The resulting collision actually killed both of my parents. I spent two months in a hospital, fighting for my own life and then two more months in a rehab hospital learning how to work again, learning how to speak again, learning how to dress myself and feed myself. And I live with a partially paralyzed body. I did not have my daddy to walk me down the aisle when I got married’’
The above is not taken from a Nollywood or Hollywood script. It is not taken from a manuscript or a published book either. Neither is it a work of creativity meant to persuade you to think nor drive safe. Rather, it is taken from a social media video sent to me by my lovely wife. It is the confession of a teen named Jacy; young, pretty, but partially paralyzed Jacey’s dreams and aspirations almost crumbled in a twinkle of an eye but for the sake of the availability of advanced medical care which kept her alive but could not help her from her partial deformity.
She was not driving and could therefore not be blamed for her trauma and dilemma. Someone was. Someone whose irresponsibility caused the death of her parents and left her worse off. Sweet and lively Jacy knew she could not help herself further beyond what advanced technology could do for her but choose to use her story to stop other teens from similar pains and tragedy. That opportunity came when she was opportuned to be introduced to other teens who ignorantly and excitedly explained why they indulge in looking at their phones while driving, teens who variously explained why they look at their phones while driving.
From the first teen to the last, they were excited about these supposed driving risk which a good number back home indulge in. Interestingly, these teens became born again after they met Jacy. But before their changed driving behavior, they shared their bad driving behavior. The first one said, ‘’if I get a text, I look at my phone. It’s definitely texting, instagram, twitter face book, snap chat’’. Another said, ‘‘I do snap chat and drive sometimes; like every time I do it, I kinda, think about it, why am I doing this? And then, I just keep doing it’’.
After listening to Jacy, their excitement fizzled. There was dead silence in the room as tears flowed freely among all the teens who couldn’t fathom the trauma caused by one silly driver’s mistake and the resultant state of a pretty teen. Their story changed as they all swore to make a difference henceforth. Individually, they confessed never to do it again. The first one said, ‘’I assure you on my way back home, I am not going to look at my phone and drive, and I am not gonna do it when I go to work tomorrow and the next day after that until, you know it becomes a habit and just doesn’t happen at all’’.
Driving behind the wheels, I once wrote is insanity. I think it is madness. I don’t know what you think but I maintain that it is pure madness to step on the wheels and accelerate above the approve speed limit like a good number do. It is even suicidal, if while indulging in the madness called excessive speeding, you still indulge in dialing, texting, browsing and pinging among some other vices, maiming, killing and injuring innocent souls. These driving traits are mostly responsible for our road traffic crash profile. I know some readers would dismiss my view as unfounded. I know I not a psychiatrist. Some would even ask me for scientific proofs to conclude that motorists who drive and phone are insane or mad as if that would change their irresponsible driving.
For such people, they can rest on the findings of the Transport Laboratories in the United Kingdom, which says that a man phoning behind the wheels is worse than one who has taken alcohol above the approve limit. I just hope that my former boss, the immediate past Corps Marshal of the FRSC and Minister of the Aviation, Osita Chidoka still shares my take. I recall sometime in 2007 just shortly after his first appointment, when I approached him to sound him out on my plans to compel some motorists to psychiatrist test at the National Hospital here in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory to check the increasing cases of distracted driving in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja as Sector Commander, FCT. That encounter remains ever fresh in my memory as it afforded me an opportunity to know my new boss well. In his usual mien, when I approached on the subject, to get his buy in on the need for this novel strategy, he merely buried his head in the files on his table. Since time was of the essence, I fired straight because I believe strongly that people who commit such infractions are insane. My joy knew no bounds when he replied in his usual style of listening and not talking that he shares my views. A week later when I went to him for confirmation,I was still overwhelmed when he quietly said, please Jonas go on and do what you plan to as I still share your views.