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Those Mobile Phone Wielding Drivers

A taxi driver in Singapore recently drove his taxi headfirst into a rather deluxe condominium swimming pool! At the subsequent court case the driver was fully exonerated from any blame on the grounds that it was raining heavily at the time of the incident and (would you believe it?) that no barriers were in place around the pool. If anybody was to ponder over this scenario it would not be hard to conjure up a few chinks and cracks in the stories armor. Well, swimming pools do not normally reside directly in front of condominium entrances as those living there tend not to favor passerby’s peering in! Oh, and who would design it such that drunken residents, returning home from a night on the town, are faced with an assault course before being allowed to their apartment and to bed? I would also question the lack of lighting around the driveway, the speed that the taxi was taking and his knowledge of the area. But going no further; the driver was so obviously doing what millions of other people are doing right now – he was concentrating away on his cell phone, weaving and ducking around plant pots and over grass verges and was not able to fully apply himself to staying on the driveway! A point to back-up this reasoning is that Singaporean taxi-drivers always ring the customers upon arrival at the pick-up point. So this driver was without doubt struggling to call his future passengers to come down, whilst paying little attention to the large sign that said “swimming pool ahead”!

Mobile Phone usage by drivers on the move has increased world-wide. Many officials, governments, safety bodies, other drivers and pedestrians are becoming seriously worried about this modern phenomenon. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in the USA conducted a survey and came up with some startling and very shocking data! The results showed that 1.2 million people or 8% of drivers in the States were using handheld or hands free cell phones during daylight hours in 2004; a 50% increase since 2002 and a 100% rise in four years. Mr. Ray Tyson, a spokesperson for NHTSA shared his views with us: while we don’t have hard evidence that there’s been an increase in the number of crashes, we know that talking on the phone can degrade driver performance”. Thanks Ray for the enlightenment but why did you restrict the survey to daylight hours only, do you expect mobile phone wielding drivers to always tell the truth and why don’t you have any hard evidence? Ray clearly reduced his statement to casual observation status rather than committing himself or the NHTSA by shouting out loudly to the world that the situation was reaching disastrous proportions ………..etc!

Over in Japan recent statistics shine another bad light on the situation. The Japanese Police produced some hard evidence (maybe they should contact RAY) of 1140 car accidents that occurred in Japan during a three month period in 1996! All of these accidents occurred due to drivers being distracted by their mobile phones in one way or another. In fact the police went a little bit further: 9 people died of these accidents! 45% of these accidents happened while drivers attempted to answer their ringing phones. 28% while drivers tried to combine driving with dialing, 18% while the drivers were talking and the remaining 11% due to other causes like scrambling under the seat to retrieve a dropped phone having just swerved out of the path of an oncoming camper van on cruise control!

Oh! And heading back to the Americas some objective Scientific Research from some body in Toronto shows that the risk of being involved in a traffic accident increases fourfold if a mobile phone is used whilst driving! Thanks for that, maybe these scientists were spent some time with Ray!

Zooming across the Atlantic, over the Middle East, China and to Taiwan! A country that manufactures and has its hand in the production of many electronic devices currently being used in the world today! As a pedestrian crossing any road in Taiwan is similar to putting ones head in the mouth of a lion, it is a dangerous event that most achieve by closing ones eyes and with a rapidly beating heart just taking the plunge – crossing the road that is! Recently this style of heart racing adventure has just gotten a little bit better: drivers manically wielding cell phones have dramatically increased the heart in mouth adventure of trying to get to the other side! It is still similar to putting ones head into a lion’s mouth, but a lion that has only just finished chomping to death its keeper, that is being prodded by a child with a stick between the bars and has been forced to listen to a mobile phone users checking out is new ring tones!

There has never been a co-coordinated system of traffic flow in Taiwan; a total lack of respect for traffic lights and pedestrians exist and weaving drivers on betel nut (a chewy nut that causes hyper activity when chewed and drowsiness in-between chomps) just adds to the general fun! Most pedestrians hug walls and sneak along with eyes working overtime as potentially hazardous drivers are logged and tracked by a well-developed brain radar system brought on by a desire for survival. Only last week a bus zoomed by with a cargo of terrified children peering helplessly and desperately out of the windows; the driver was happily conversing on his mobile whilst weaving an unstoppable course through various red lights at well over the moral speed limit! Another recent incident which in retrospect is quite hilarious was when two moped drivers approached each other across an intersection. Their speeds were not great and the whole scenario played out as if in slow motion; each was concentrating on their respective conversations, each was weaving drunkenly forwards in fits and starts and as if pre-ordained they collided head on. A tangled heap resulted but without serious injury or damage. But what is even more hilarious is that both individuals picked themselves up, brushed themselves off and without acknowledging each other or scrambling to shift blame they both reached around for the cell phones. And without pause they continued their conversations – why let a mere traffic accident get in the way of a call? Who knows, maybe they were talking to each before they crashed and afterwards were busy obtaining each others insurance details – all over the phone!

Even worse than being a pedestrian these days is to find oneself sitting in the back of a taxi with driver who feels the urge to converse not with you but with his mobile! Suddenly from being a normal driver who bores his passengers to tears with stories of his economic plight or Liverpool’s recent football score, emerges a maniac of WW11 convoy evasion tactical ability! The driver suddenly decides that any action of the foot on the gas peddle must be immediately followed by one on the brake and passengers find themselves alternately with their heads embedded into the seat in front or their bodies lying twisted and mangled against the rear window! From a driver, who although was naturally aggressive in his driving managed with skill to avoid others, emerges a monster. A massive monster who will play head on “who will brake first” games with a speeding tank, who will assume that spaces the size of a shopping trolley will mysteriously expand if he gets enough speed up and who considers that all other drivers are mere figments of his imagination!

Indeed the mobile phone driving syndrome situation is far worse than authorities, governments, Ray, the Japanese Police and the bored or underpaid scientist’s state. This maybe due to the fact that most of the above mentioned bodies and groups tend to use their very own mobile phones whilst driving to work every day so ……….can’t make too much noise now can they!

One country is stepping up its efforts to clamp down on this new menace! The UK! As of 2005 drivers caught using mobile phones will be immediately fined 60 pounds and have three penalty points on their driving licenses! In fact Ms Janet Anderson, MP for Rose and Darwin ( a couple of houses in England connected by a single lane dirt track) clapped her hands in delight upon receiving a report that hands-free kits (once heralded as a safe alternative) were nearly as dangerous as actual hand-held phones! She went on a bit further to say that, “it must be made crystal clear to drivers who insist on behaving in this way that they endanger the safety of the public generally and their own safety too”! Yippee!

Still in the UK - recent tests at the Transport Research Laboratory have shown that drivers on mobiles have a slower reaction time and stopping time than those under the influence of alcohol! It does not really take a team of highly paid scientists and many pounds later to figure that one out: it is blatantly obvious that a driver under the influence will be applying every ounce of his available concentration on his driving, albeit slightly misguided, whilst a driver on his mobile will not be concentrating at all! But the findings of this year long study did place in writing some much needed data and statistics that can now be used and wielded by those trying to clamp down on the menace! At last some hard evidence!

Hopefully the future will change people’s attitudes regarding mobile phone usage! Hopefully normal people will not feel the urge to be in contact 24/7, will not suffer withdrawal symptoms should they be disconnected for a nanosecond and be able to not answer a ringing phone – in fact it would be superb if people could actually switch mobile phones off sometimes!

But this is way, way, way into the future! As far away as us conversing with aliens from the planet “zong” in the “xzihngty” galaxy about them trying to eat us for breakfast! In the meantime it will be up to governments and the introduction of new laws to clamp down on the menace and thus make drivers think twice before answering or making calls whilst on the move!

Maybe the answer is not to punish drivers through penalty points on their license or the threat of paltry monetary fines:

“You have been found guilty by this court of talking on a cell phone whilst driving. You will from this day forth not be allowed to own, borrow, use or even look at a mobile phone, PDF or portable communication device for a period of ten years. Additionally you will complete three months of community service upon completion of which you will attend counseling in “how to survive on this planet without being in constant touch”. Upon completion of this course you will then attend a four week course titled, “how to use a phone that is connected to a land line”. Take him away boys!

The only crisis left to solve would then be to clamp down on those drivers who insist on doing a full make-over in the rear-view mirror whilst doing 60MPH through a built up area! To put a halt to business men who assume that drivers’ seats are wonderful places to shave, rinse and swallow! To convince short sighted people that, “cleaning ones specs” by removing them and whilst navigating a hair bend in icy conditions is not really sensible. Oh, and that various forms of sexual attention might be pleasurable at the time but not when subsequently wrapped around a lamppost or underneath an HGV still doing 60MPH down the freeway!

When these drivers have had their shaving kits and make up bags confiscated and are safely tucked away behind bars then it might be safe for the average pedestrian to step foot outside once again and with confidence, without fear of being mowed down by cars driven by self-engrossed and selfish drivers who assume that the conversation they are currently having is more important than life!

Submitted by:

Ieuan Dolby

Ieuan Dolby - Author and Webmaster of Seamania. As a Chief Engineer in the Merchant Navy he has sailed the world for fifteen years. Now living in Taiwan he writes about cultures across the globe and life as he sees it.

seadolby.com

ieuandolby@seadolby.com





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