What is that text message worth?
Last week I wrote about seat belts. This week I look at something that causes 25% of all accidents in South Africa. Besides speeding and drunk driving, texting while driving is the biggest cause of road accidents in South Africa.
In January 2014 there were a reported 1376 road deaths and over the Easter weekend 208 deaths as opposed to 14 deaths over the same period in Australia! We are ranked number 36 in the world for having the worst road safety record!
The research for this article was very difficult as there either doesn’t seem to be statistics available, or the statistics are 4 years old.
Discovery Insure CEO, Anton Ossip, said in an interview that 2/3 of South African drivers make calls while driving and that, on average, 20% of drivers will spend at least 3 minutes on the phone per trip.
He also said that 40% of drivers with hands free kits still make 80% of their calls manually!
Another article said that ‘One teen, texting while driving, has the same reaction time as a 70 year old driver who isn’t texting.!
The AA stated that texting while driving is 6 times more dangerous than drunk driving and Car and Driver Editor, Eddie Alterman ,in a 2010 experiment, said that at 110km/h the stopping distance, while drunk, was increased by 1.2 m. Reading a text while driving increased the stopping distance by 11 m and when sending a text it shot up to 21 m. The stopping distance is how long it takes the car to come to a complete stop.
Mothers with toddlers – put your kid on the floor and close your eyes for 60 seconds. How far did they go? What did they get up to in those 60 seconds? Firstly, 60 seconds is a long time to have your eyes closed and secondly, in 60 seconds your toddler has probably left the room. While making a call (not a text) you are distracted for 52 seconds if you are driving at 60km/h. It is the same as if you were asked to drive blindfolded for 1 km and you are 4 times more likely to be involved in a fatal accident.
Another test for yourself:- Go to a mall, take out your phone and look at the screen for 52 seconds, do not look up but continue to walk. How far did you get? How many people did you bump into? If this is what happens when you are walking, how much worse will it potentially be if you are driving at 60km/h?
The 2013 statistics that I found, stated that there are 32 accidents per 100 000 people in South Africa each year. This is roughly 13 000 accidents per year and costs the country an average of 307 billion Rands!
South African accident statistics work differently to the rest of the world. In South Africa they only count road deaths for people who die within 6 days of the accident and not 3 month like the USA. This means, if someone is in an accident and lingers for more than 6 days, they are not considered to have died as a result of that accident. This makes our road fatality statistics fairly unreliable.
The most common age, for these road deaths, was people between the ages of 20 – 40 years old, with men being more likely to die than women.
The CDC in America stated that world – wide, distracted driving is highest cause of road deaths in the world. This not only included texting, which was the highest cause in this category, but also eating, reading the newspaper, putting on makeup , shaving and driving with children.
Over the years I have heard some horrific stories. For example, when a person who was texting, turned the corner and smashed into a trailer that was being loaded with luggage for a school trip and killed the young boy who was loading his suitcase. David O’Sullivan related a story, while doing work for Carte Blanche, about a woman who was sending a text to her mom when she was involved in an accident that has left her paralysed!
Oprah Winfrey started her movement called the ‘No Phone Zone’. She did a program where she interviewed people who had either lost someone in an accident caused by cell phone use, or had caused the accident because they were distracted by their cell phone.
It is not just texting that is dangerous. People who talk on the phone are 4 times more likely to be involved in an accident. Oprah stated that phone use, while driving, is the same as driving after 4 drinks. In South Africa the legal limit is 2 x 75 ml glasses of wine in 1 hour. Unfortunately, this is mostly ignored and accident statistics involving drunk drivers are very high on the fatality list. If you are driving and texting, it is almost impossible to take evasive action, should you be in the path of a drunken driver!
One family told of their 11 year old daughter who was killed 10 meters from their house by a driver talking on a cell phone. Another 23 year old Oprah interviewed, was 18 at the time and texting his girlfriend. He hit a car, pushing it into oncoming highway traffic, killing the 2 men in it! He no longer sleeps through the night and suffers constant nightmares.
A lady who lost her mother, said that the man who caused the accident was using a hands free kit but was so distracted by the conversation, that he ran a red light and ploughed into her car. She also said that a car is not an office, it is not a phone booth, it is something that is meant to get you from A to B. The woman who lost her mother is a real estate agent and spends most of her time in the car. It is not where your hands are that is the problem but rather where you head is!
Texting while driving decreases your parietal lobe activity by 37%. Your parietal lobe is responsible for two things. One is sensation and perception and the other is integrating sensory input which has to do with the visual system. This means, it is the part of the brain that tells you there is a car in front of you and that you need to brake.
I would love to start Oprah’s movement here is South Africa by pledging to make our cars, ‘no phone zones’. This means turning your phone to silent so that it can’t distract you, or putting your phone in the boot (trunk) while driving so that you can’t get to it, or maybe changing your message to “Hi, you have reached ………….I am not available right now, this may be because I am in the car and I do not use my phone while driving. Please leave a message and I will call you when I am no longer in the car.”
If you would like to join me in this new campaign, please write a note in the comments section.
I pledge to make my car a No Phone Zone!