Driving distracted a leading cause of road crashes

Driving distracted a leading cause of road crashes

Distractions are one of the leading causes of single vehicle road crashes among young people, according to an international study published on World Freeways.

Liam Clarke, commercial manager of the Bakwena N1N4 Toll Road Concessionaire, attributes some of these fatalities to texting or using a mobile phone while driving.

“It takes about four seconds to read a text on our phones, and another five to reply. That’s about nine seconds with your eyes off the road. Nine seconds on the road is a long time. Couple this with bad weather, poor visibility, speed or alcohol and you have a disaster waiting to happen,” notes Clarke.

According to the International Transport Forum’s (ITF) 2013 Road Safety Annual Report, South Africa has one of the highest road crash rates in the world, with around 25% of those crashes caused by the cellphone use while driving.

Cellphones affect driver competence

Although alcohol and speeding are among the leading factors in South Africa’s road crashes, the use of cellphones while driving is one of the top causes of driver distraction.In South Africa drivers caught using their mobile phones whilst driving can be fined up to R750. In the Western Cape the same offence is also punishable with a fine of R500 and having your cellphone confiscated, where should you want it back will have to pay an additional release fee of R1140.

ITF says cellphone usage while driving affects driver competence, resulting in a 37% decrease in parietal lobe, the part of the brain mostly responsible for language.

More stringent measures needed

Data collected through the Discovery Insure Driver Challenge app, found that a single instance of mobile phone usage represents an average of 52 seconds of distracted driving. At 60km/h, this is equivalent to driving “blind” for one kilometre and makes the driver four times more likely to have a crash, the study found.

Clarke says more stringent measures must be put into place to deter the use of cellphones whilst driving.“If the stats and fatality records tell us anything, it’s this: driving distracted not only places one’s life in danger, but also the lives of other motorists. Alcohol, fatigue and speeding are all known to perpetuate bad driving, but the use of a cellphone while driving is equally dangerous,” concludes Clarke.

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