“One hand on your significant other’s lap and one hand on the steering wheel is one hand too few for either operation.”
That’s what my favourite matric English teacher used to tell us with a memorable guffaw. I have modernised it to be gender sensitive – the point, however, is still relevant. Texting has become a social norm in the 21st century due to the popularity of smartphones which allow people to communicate faster and easier. Likewise, having one hand on your smartphone and the other on the steering wheel is daft. Texting while driving is plain stupid and is the latest newest idiotic trend that transcends gender and age.
Texting while driving (TWD) is the act of creating, sending, reading or sending SMSs, Facebook messages, Instagram emails or making use of the web on a mobile phone while driving a vehicle.
Texting while driving belongs to a larger class of driving issues called distracted driving. Distracted driving includes trying to advance a song on your iPod or mobile, or changing your phone to hands-free while driving. Distracted driving is described as an epidemic sweeping our roads. Since 2008, more than 3 000 deaths and well over 500 000 accidents were recorded each year in the United States. The medical society believes texting while driving makes this act the most dangerous of all distractions. The Institute of Advanced Motorists in Britain concurs, publishing a study showing that using smartphones while driving in some cases is more dangerous than drink-driving or being high on cannabis. To this end, TWD is banned in most western nations.
And there is a new phrase for it as well – Driving While Intexicated (DWI). This is also arguably more dangerous than driving under the influence (DUI) because DWI can happen all day and night.
Moms beware as recent studies point out that the majority of American sober mothers are driving like drunks, with infant children in their cars. They are so distracted by cell phones they are creating an even greater risk than being drunk. Your conversation is not worth the danger to your child, yourself and other innocent road users.
Texting was blamed in the 2008 Los Angeles train collision which killed 25 passengers where investigations revealed the engineer on board had sent 45 text messages while operating the train. There have been reports of plane and helicopter crashes TWD-related fatalities.
Reducing and eliminating cell phone use while driving needs to become a family effort and a simple solution to drivers struggling to break the habit is to turn off the volume so the constant “ding” of notifications won’t entice you to check it, especially if you planning a long-distance trip.
The minimum time needed to read a text is five seconds – which at 60 km/h is the equivalent of travelling over the length of a football field in this time. At least one third of all drivers have admitted to texting while driving. Have you?
One in five drivers confesses to surfing the network while driving. This possibly means that one of the drivers around you may be surfing as you drive. It seems there is a whole lot of surfing on our roads! So watch out for them.
So I searched for an app to help us as well as our kids to be safer while driving and found the Canary project. Like the historic canary in a coal mine, the Canary app raises an alarm to parents that their teens are in danger.
In this case, you’ll get an immediate alert when your teen is driving while distracted and doing things like texting or making a phone call while driving, moving at unsafe speed. It may even inform you of a person travelling outside an area you’ve defined as safe or violating curfew. Big brother? Nope. This is just better parenting. Heck, now my wife wants to install this to monitor me! This app sadly is not available in SA just yet, but we have engaged the developers.
Will this work here? Absolutely! Discovery is already using a variation of this application to monitor its insured vehicles and to reward good driving behaviour.
I always maintain that the youth with powerful cars bought by senseless parents must by law undergo advanced driver training, or the parents must be jailed. I argue similarly for anti-texting and talking devices to be installed in cars. And before you (MTN/Vodacom/CellC and Neotel) say you don’t know how to do it – I suggest you ask Parliament. They have the knowledge. The cell blocking during the State of the Nation Address was actually a trial run for car safety.
My wife Maleni I will be late for dinner. The idiot in front of me suddenly stopped just as I was texting that made me clip his fender. As you know I am an ICT expert and therefore ought to be an expert texter. It follows that the fault has to lie with the other driver. Drivers are just so inconsiderate these days….
– Colin Thakur is the Director of the iNeSi e-Skills CoLab at DUT. He is a digital activist keen on upgrading the e-skills of the nation to enhance the quality of life. He writes this column in his personal capacity.
* Views and opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those o the Durban University of Technology.
* Story appeared in the Dolphin Coast Mail and East Coast Mail