Cell Phones & Road Safety
The National Police Agency of Japan in a recent survey found that Japanese drivers using cell phones during driving, caused 2297 accidents in 1997. These accidents resulted in 25 fatalities and injuries to over 3000. Another study on cell phones and road safety in South Africa, revealed that out of every four car crashes one is cell phone related. We in India are still some distance from such surveys concerning cell phones and accidents but one thing is certain, that cell phone drivers are growing by leaps and bounds on our roads. Last week it was a remarkable scene on the Cathedral road, just a stones throw from Chola Sheraton. A two-wheeler driver with a heavy load tied on the rear seat, taking a turn on TTK Road, with only one hand balancing the vehicle, the other hand holding a mobile and the driver keenly engrossed in a conversation. So the days are not far when our law enforcers will have to take notice of this.
Are cell phones really dangerous? Can they be termed a new monster threatening life and safety on our roads? A Professor at Stanford University, U.S.A. says it is an impossible thing to prove. According to him, a study would have to prove whether cell phones were being used at or near the time of mishap and whether the connection between phone use and car accidents was mere coincidence. Cell phones may be dangerous or not, but while using one, attention obviously wanders and accidents can result. Not a comforting thought.
Though the link between car crashes and use of cell phones may be difficult to prove, there are nine out of ten chances of a driver knocking down a person trying to cross a road, on which he happens to be driving with a cell phone on. Two Canadian researchers have collected evidence that points to the possibility of an increase in the number of accidents while the driver is driving and talking on the cell phone. The study conducted by D.A. Redelmier and R.J. Tibshirani of the University of Toronto, involved 699 drivers who had cell phones and who were also involved in accidents. After analysing 26,798 cells made by these drivers, the study concluded that the risk of accidents increased fourfold when the drivers were talking on the cell phone.
Using mobiles in many countries is illegal. Portugal has completely banned them. Italy, Poland, Switzerland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Hungary and Spain require motorists to use hand free sets. Making calls while driving is permitted in Germany, but hand free sets are recommended. In USA, there are around 35 million cellular phones in use, but there is no law restricting the use of cell phones while driving. The new highway code of UK published in February this year, acknowledges that drivers might lose concentration because of in-car technical equipment. The new code making clear the danger of being distracted by gadgets in vehicles clearly states, "do not operate, adjust or view any such system if it will distract your attention while you are driving." Safety campaigners in UK had been pressuring the government to introduce laws to ban the use of mobile telephones while driving, but the government has stopped short of that.
Still, in spite of all these drawbacks, cell phones have several positive features. Cell phones are a valuable safety device. Information about an accident can be communicated accurately and speedily. A driver can drive without stress as he knows that help is only a phone call away. This helps him keep his peace of mind and the roads safer. To maximize the safety potential and to prevent it from becoming a hazard, we could be guided by the following recommendations.
Position your phone within easy reach so that you dont have to take your eyes off the road. Get to know the features of your cell phone speed dial, redial, voice mail, they can be your life saver. But dont dial and drive at the same time. Use a hands free kit. Avoid using a phone when road conditions are hazardous or traffic is heavy. You can let your voice mail take messages and then call back later. Dont engage in stressful conversations that may distract your attention from the road. Dont take notes or look up phone numbers whilst driving, wait till you can pull over. User abbreviated speed dialing. In fact, voice activated dialing is even better. It leaves both hands free. Frequently called numbers can be programmed. Observe the traffic conditions before making or receiving a call. Have an answering machine installed that could take messages until you can return the calls. In case you have a co-passenger, let him handle the calls. In case you are invariably required, stop the car at the nearest safe point to converse. And in case you are a dedicated cell phone user, do not drink a beverage or light a cigarette while driving. It doubles the risk of an accident.
A cellular phone is a responsibility and a privilege. People need to learn how to use it safely to maximize the benefits. Cell phone companies could encourage safe cell phone use through education and training. The National Cellular Safe Talk Centre and the National Safety Council of the United States have developed a cell phone safety guide that provides safe-driving tips and explains how to report emergencies.
Restricting or curbing the use of cell phones while on the move, in fact, they are intended for that purpose, would be putting the clock back. Also it is not desirable. It is therefore imperative that adequate awareness be created in the cell phone users to help them recognise hazards that could lead to accidents, disabilities and deaths and thus avoid these mishaps.
Asst. Manager (PR)
For further details
Loss Prevention Association of India Ltd., (LPA)
Seethakathi Chambers, (4th Floor)
688, Anna Salai, Chennai - 600 006.
Phone : 28524648, 28523920.
If you happen to be at an accident site, what you do in those 2-3 minutes, can save a precious life. Please bear in mind that: