By: Tshepo Matseba
They are cool, funky, sexy, talented, famous, not so famous, smart, but they are addicted to deadly habits. They are South Africa’s road hazards who text while driving. They are the ignorant people who take selfies, videos, send emails, update their Facebook status, retweet, like posts on Linkedin, upload photos on Instagram, broadcast their stories live while driving. They are deadly, and yet they drive next you and your loved ones, every day.
According to a report published by the World Health Organization (WHO) more than 1.2 million people die in road crashes worldwide each year – the equivalent of one traffic-related fatality every 30 seconds – and another 20 to 50 million people are injured.
“Distracted drivers are about 4 times as likely to be involved in crashes as those who are focused on driving. Drivers who are texting can be more than 20 times more likely to crash than non-distracted drivers. Drivers who send and receive text messages take their eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds out of every 6 seconds while texting. At 55 miles per hour, this means that the driver is traveling the length of a football field, including the end zones, without looking at the road,” the WHO states.
Precious Nduli, head of technical marketing for Discovery Insure says that South Africa has one of the highest road accident rates in the world, with around 25% of accidents related to cellphone use while driving. “The cost of human tragedy is immeasurable. This phenomenon also costs our economy, with an impact of R307 billion a year (8% to 10% of GDP),” says Nduli, adding that statistics show that two out of three drivers make calls while driving. “This causes a 37% reduction in the brain’s parietal lobe activity, which hampers full visual ability while driving. As a result, the driver is four times more likely to have an accident.”
These figures are scary. “We at Discovery Insure analysed our data to see how often distracted driving happens among our driver and found that of the trips that resulted in an accident, 52% involved distracted driving,” she says. According to Discovery Insure, phone distraction occurs 29% at a speed of 90 km/h. The worst 10% of distracted drivers are 2.3 times more likely to be in a crash than the average driver. “Young females (18-29) are the worst offenders regarding cellphone usage while driving,” she says.
Nduli further states that Discovery Insure aims to create a nation of great drivers. “We do this by encouraging good driving behaviour such as avoiding distractions. Distracted driving involves activities such as eating, applying make-up or clothing and the most common and serious of all: using a cellphone.”
In 2008, the WHO reports, nearly 6,000 people in the United States were killed and more than 500,000 were injured in crashes involving distracted driving. “Countries around the world are taking action to stop distracted driving. To date, at least 32 countries have enacted laws banning cell phone use while driving and Portugal has made using any kind of phone, including hands-free, illegal while driving.”
- Turn your phone to silent
- Turn your phone off or put their phone in their handbag to avoid the distraction
- Best advice is to avoid using cellular phones when driving
- When the phone rings, let it ring! It’s better to use your phone’s voicemail or even miss a call than to put yourself, your passengers or others at risk.
- Use hand free microphones
- If you have to make a call on a hands free cellular phone – ask a passenger to dial or answer the phone for you
Keep your calls brief
- If you expect such a call to last longer than a few seconds – be on the lookout for a suitable spot to pull over
- Never take notes or jot down numbers whilst driving
- When in heavy traffic –rather tell the person, you will call back when it is safer