Avoid talking on your cellphone while driving

By Staff Writer
Talking on a cellphone without a hands-free kit while driving is dangerous - it distracts your attention from the road, increasing your risk of having an accident. In South Africa it's also against the law.

And yet, countless South African motorists still engage in this risky behaviour every day. If you're guilty, take heed

"Driving requires your full attention and focus. You need all your faculties about you if you are to concentrate on operating and steering your vehicle, while keeping a firm eye on the road ahead so that you can respond swiftly to sudden changes, remain conscious of road and weather conditions and, react to traffic lights and signs.

"Your ability to do all of these simultaneously is greatly compromised when you are fumbling with a cellphone or are engaged in conversation.

"Aside from distracting you from your driving, talking on your cellphone also distracts you from what's happening around you. You can become a soft target for hi-jackers and smash-and-grabbers who can easily spot that you are not paying attention," stresses Dial Direct Insurance's spokesperson Bradley Du Chenne.

Cellphone usage behind the wheel has contributed to an increasing number of accidents, injuries and fatalities on the roads. International research shows that dialling a cellphone, engaging in a phone conversation and texting increases the risk of an accident by about six times. In the United States, the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration reported that about 25% of all car accidents are caused by distractions.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in the US also conducted research in 2002, which revealed that 955 people were killed in 240 000 roadway accidents while speaking or texting on a cellphone.

According to information on www.arrivealive.co.za, another international survey involving 837 drivers (who use their cellphones while driving) found that almost half swerved or drifted into another lane, 23% had tailgated, 21% had cut another car off and 18% had nearly caused an accident.

Du Chenne points out that not only people who neglect to use a hands-free kit put themselves at risk of an accident.

"Various studies show that it's not only the act of holding and manipulating a cellphone while driving that increases the risk of an accident, but the phone conversation as well. That's because the driver's focus is on the conversation and not the road where it should be," he says.

Du Chenne concludes: "Talking on a cellphone while driving is a risky affair. It could also land you a stiff fine if you are caught. So, avoid using your phone while driving at all costs. If it rings while you are driving, let it go to voicemail. You can call the person back once you're parked. If you really must make a call while you're on the road, use a hands-free kit and keep your call short."

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