Sometime ago, I did a piece titled, The Blackberry craze. Before this piece, I had done a similar one titled, The Blackberry phobia. If you are one of the serial offenders still in the habit of phoning behind the wheels, you need to do a rethink on that habit because of the new discoveries on distracted driving. That is why today, I wish to treat a topic I am sure that will shock most motorists – daydreaming. This piece is not about the psychology of daydreaming but the dangers behind the wheels.
In my earlier piece, I warned about the dangers of using your phone while driving. But the new study claims that it is even more dangerous to daydream behind the wheels.
Daydreaming, according to Wikipedia, is a short-term detachment from one’s immediate surroundings, during which a person’s contact with reality is blurred and partially substituted by a visionary fantasy, especially one of happy, pleasant thoughts, hopes or ambitions, imagined as coming to pass, and experienced while awake. A daydreaming driver is a danger to himself and others. When I warned against driving and phoning I said you are four times likely to be involved in a crash. In the case of daydreaming behind the wheels, the finding says you are five times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash because you were lost in thought, than if you were distracted by texting or talking on the phone.
A research conducted by Erie Insurance Group focused on the 65,000 fatal crashes that occurred in the US between 2011 and 2012 identifying 10 percent as the result of some form of distracted driving-in line with Federal and other insurance industry estimates. The research also surprisingly identified 62 percent of the crashes as the result of simply being lost in thought. That might mean failing to recognize a dangerous curve on the road, running into the back of another vehicle, surging through a red light or some other driver error. By comparison, only 12 per cent of fatal accidents covered by the data were blamed on some form of mobile phone use. The results showed that rubbernecking accounted for seven per cent, kids or other occupants – five per cent; reaching for an object elsewhere in the car – two per cent, while eating or drinking accounted for two per cent. This report follows a recent State Farm study by the Detroit Bureau that nearly half of drivers under 29 use the Internet at least once a month while behind the wheels. These findings are indeed confirmation that driving as postulated by the Road Society for the Prevention of Accidents, is a dangerous vocation that demands full concentration at all times.
Today, mobile phones have become more sophisticated because the continuous evolution of technology has given them ever-increasing capabilities and functionalities once associated with laptops. For the mobile man, it provides all the tools to run your business on the move. So while away from home or the office, you can still work on a document and then send it by email to your boss or colleague in the office or save it on Cloud. Truth is that this some current mobile phones are a delight to own and use. But for us in the Federal Road Safety Corps, sophisticated mobile phones like the Blackberry is a killer because of the level of abuse seen daily on the wheels. The craze to use mobile phones while driving doubles by the day and scares me stiff. Check out the average Blackberry user, especially the ones who own cars. One trait among them is their mannerism on the wheels even though a good number display gross ignorance of relevant traffic rules and a diehard penchant for violating these rules.
This trait is no respecter of gender, education, tribe or height or even looks. Whether the user lives in highbrow Lekki, Ikoyi, Victoria Island, Banana Island or maybe Douglas road in Owerri, Imo State or even Nyanya in the Federal Capital Territory, the show off is the same. All blackberry users have their peculiar swag – attitude. Daily on the road, in all manner of vehicle, they flaunt their new toy as they text, e-mail, chat, phone, browse the Facebook and do all sorts in the name of displaying their new status. Some are bold enough to display this ‘craze’ right inside the premises of the Federal Road Safety Corps and would go to any length to deny their act when caught. The major highways are not even spared by them despite the speed craze by most drivers. Even during church services, they do same!
Section 4, subsection z (ff) of the Federal Road Safety Commission, (Establishment act) of 2007, prohibits making or receiving phone calls while driving. In fact, it was because of this ugly trend that as Sector Commander in the Federal Capital Territory, a couple of years ago, I introduced a compulsory psychiatric test for such offenders at the National Hospital, in addition to one-week public enlightenment. You would be shocked to know that a good number of those arrested were found mentally unstable.
•To be continued next week…