Say ‘no’ to texting

Was that message really worth it? Using your mobile behind the wheels has been killing hundreds of people in the UAE. Can you spark the change?
The Community By The Community report
Published on July 16, 2014

DUBAI Imagine you’re sitting at a red light and your phone makes a harmless ping. You pick it up to read the text and start typing a reply. The light turns green and you floor the accelerator. Typing furiously to send the reply, you have only one hand at the steering wheel. You look down to press send, and in a flash of a second, the car in front of you breaks sharply. Do you think you will be able to react in time?
Texting while driving has spread like plague in the UAE, claiming more victims than accidents caused in cases of drink driving. In fact, experts say the level of impairment is similar in both situations.
In this country, texting while driving is a criminal offence for which you can be fined up to Dh1,200 — if you are lucky enough to not have caused any damage.
The offence list for using mobile phones while driving was 35,670 in 2013. Statistics state that there is an accident every three minutes in Dubai.
Zuber Khan, a new resident of Dubai, enjoys the smooth and free roads and frequently crosses the speed limit. Every month, he pays the fines and yet continues to speed. “I was driving home and was above the speed limit when I received a text. I drive this route often, so I knew what turns were coming up and I started to reply to the text. The next moment I looked up and realised that I had drifted across three lanes and was just about to hit a police officer’s bike. I dropped my phone, swerved and braked sharply, narrowly missing the officer,” reveals Rizwan.
When you pick up your cellphone while driving, it causes a complete derailment of the cognitive awareness needed to drive safely. Your spatial senses are disturbed when you choose to look away from the road, physically and mentally. So when you look up again from your phone, you are not aware of your car’s location and you need to re-calibrate your position.
Every extra second that your eyes are not on road, increases the risk of accidents by four times. Missing red lights, drifting from lanes, failing to apply the brake in time — all these are results of texting while driving and can prove to be fatal.
Theyab Amana, a famous football player who played for the Baniyas Emirati Pro-League club, lost his life in an accident in which he was seen using his phone seconds before the crash. His family has since been working on a similar message to spread awareness on this growing yet preventable risky behaviour. The highest number of fatal cases in mobile-usage related accidents occurs in the under-20 age group. Over 50 per cent use their phones to send texts while driving, while 16 per cent have been involved in serious car crashes.
As an attempt to solve this problem, BlackBerry launched a campaign with its tag line as ‘It Can Wait’, urging people to abstain from looking at their phones while driving. It emphasises the fact that there’s no text message or call more important than your life. BMW also launched a campaign
emphasising that it takes 10 seconds of distraction to double the chances of getting into an accident. The AD shows the lengthy safety precautions responsible parents
take to protect their child, however the 10 seconds used to look at your phone screen, can mean the difference between life and death.
In this move against texting while driving, be pro-life and put that phone on silent mode the next time you buckle up to make a trip. It can wait.

READER’S VOICE

1. Do you know anyone who has met with an accident due to texting behind the wheeels?
2. What should authorities do to stop people from using mibile phones while driving?
Do send in your feedback by writing to us at thecommunity@skyhorizonmedia.com

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