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By Dr Pieter Streicher, MD of BulkSMS.com. Uploaded on: 11 February 2010.
Most motorists do not realise the serious hazards of using their phones, says
Pieter Streicher, Managing Director of BulkSMS.com.
According to Arrive Alive, an international survey amongst 837 drivers with cellphones found that almost half swerved or drifted into another lane, 23% had tailgated, 21% cut someone off and 18% nearly hit another vehicle while using the phone. In spite of these stats and laws to stop people talking or texting while driving, a large number still do.
Aside from our seeming addiction to our cellphones, perhaps a key reason for
this lies in the legacy of our communication systems. Cellular technology has
only been big news in South Africa for 15 years, meaning that a large
proportion of current cellphone users are from the generations that were raised
only having a phone at home.
This has two key implications. The first is that the older generation, say from
50 years old upwards, are accustomed to having to answer the phone after a few
rings, or risk missing out on an important message or social opportunity. In
their youth, even answering machines were not yet invented, so the need for the
older generation to answer the phone or respond to a text without delay is
deeply ingrained in their DNA. Their conditioning, therefore, makes it very
hard for them to let the call go to voicemail.
The second implication is that they have not educated their children on the
risks of driving while talking or texting. Part of this is because of their
conditioning, but another part is that many people do not realise just how
dangerous the use of a cellphone in a car is.
There was a study done at a university to qualitatively test the distraction
levels of cellphone users. A clown on a monocycle—i.e. a very conspicuous and
unusual sight—was planted on the campus. The reactions of the students to the
clown were observed and surveyed. It was found that the majority of those
talking on their cellphones did not even notice the clown. However, people who
were walking in pairs did notice the clown, even though they were engaged in
Because the sound quality on a cellphone is not that good, plus the fact that
you don’t see the person’s face, talking on a mobile phone requires a lot of
attention. Few people realise this, and think that they can stay fully-focused
on the road while using their phones. The stats and stories, unfortunately,
paint a very different picture. SMSing while driving takes this to a whole new
level. The amount of time the driver has to look away from the road is
significant, and can have catastrophic consequences.
The onus, therefore, is on the industry to educate consumers on the dangers of
combining cars and cellphones. This is particularly relevant in a society that
is generally not overly risk-averse. Mobile network operators and others in the
cellular industry need to take more responsibility to ensure safety while
people use their products. Of course, the decision ultimately lies with the
consumer, but industry must play its part.
The following tips have been provided by Arrive Alive, and are crucial to
ensure the safety of drivers and passengers:
When the phone rings, let it ring! It is better to use your phone’s voicemail
or even miss a call than to put yourself, your passengers or others at risk
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