Cellphones still a distraction for drivers

Whilst much talk of late has been about the deep potholes or “craters” that are fast evolving on our local roads, I want to call attention again to an issue that has been in the public domain for some time, but is yet to be fully addressed – that of the use of cellphones whilst driving.

Reports were in the past, that Government was leaning towards permitting the use of hands free devices while driving, rather than a full ban on cellphone usage. However, I have heard nothing concrete of late, where this move is concerned.

If I was given a dollar for each time I have noticed a driver chatting away on his or her cellphone whilst navigating local roads, I am sure I could upgrade my own cellphone, and purchase one of the latest devices. However, I would probably invest in a local campaign to get the message across to motorists, that they should avoid using their cellphones whilst driving, as such a move can prove distracting and potentially life threatening in some cases.

Now for those who will argue that there are many citizens who need to conduct business as they travel to and fro, let me state that I certainly do not believe everyone using a cellphone whilst driving has some urgent business to fix. I have seen many persons spending inordinate amounts of time chatting on their mobiles with all the gestures they can muster, while casually sitting in traffic. I have seen drivers nonchalantly perusing their phones whilst in a traffic line and I have even seen some motorists moving their fingers as if they were texting, all whilst driving.

However, I know there will be some instances where you just have to make contact with someone, and time is of the essence. So I can support the idea of a hands free device for drivers. I have always noted that utilising such a device can reduce the need to take one’s hands off the wheel. Plus, many of us speak with our passengers, so talking and driving is not that farfetched. Given our hectic schedules and the fact that the day goes by so quickly, I can admit that there may be genuine cases for wanting to reach for that phone. Nonetheless, the technology out there at present is really great and can be used to any advantage. There are features on certain phones that also allow you to hear who is calling you, as the person’s name is repeated while the phone rings, and with a simple touch of a button on the earpiece, you can chat away. There is also the option of an automatic answer, for those persons who cannot miss a call. For those who need to make numerous calls, by simply using an earpiece, you can conduct a voice dial, which as persons may know, does not require the dialing of any numbers, but a simple command to “call so and so". Obviously, the hands free devices do not negate the fact that one must still exercise due care and attention on the road. However, I do believe that they will aid in freeing up those hands needed for steering one’s vehicle and will assist in keeping person’s eyes on the road.

I am all for making our roads safer and I really hope that persons will see the need to refrain from holding those phones while chatting or balancing the phone from ear to ear, when there are options out there to make life easier. I hope that the relevant authorities will also move with alacrity and do the necessary, to ensure that Barbadians can cut down on distracted driving on our roads.
One small step in the right direction can do a world of good.

Barbados Advocate

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