Keep your eyes off your smartphone and on the road

The distraction caused by so called 'split attention' is among the top causes of accidents, injuries and deaths.

A recent survey on the use of mobile phones while driving has highlighted some very disturbing practices on UAE roads. What should have been a basic rule while behind the wheel is appallingly the most flouted one among drivers, as almost 74 per cent prefer to use their phones behind the wheel. The distraction caused by so called 'split attention' is among the top causes of accidents, injuries and deaths. It is surprising how a significant number of drivers, not just in the UAE but also around the world, is blasé about the dangers of using phones on roads. Traffic authorities across the world are struggling to educate drivers and creating awareness on the issue. Campaigns are held annually in the UAE, but to no avail. Driver training methods are being constantly updated. The law is clear. Using mobile phones while driving on Dubai roads attracts a fine of Dh200 and four black points, but police have gone on record saying it is too lenient a penalty. Police have put this unacceptable practice on par with drink-driving, and earlier this year had proposed a heftier fine of Dh1,000, 12 black points and confiscation of the vehicle for 30 days.
In the US, most states have banned 'texting' by drivers and ushered in a number of campaigns to persuade people to put down their phones when behind the wheel. Authorities in the United Kingdom too have recently doubled the fines and penalty points for drivers caught using smartphones. But the pertinent question is whether heftier fines and penalties like these will discourage such behaviour from motorists. Shouldn't drivers be more mindful of their safety and that of others on the road? Fatalities on roads due to accidents such as these are a major loss of opportunity for societies, and nations at large. As pointed in the recent YouGov survey, the most vulnerable ones are in the age group of 25 and 29 years - lives full of potential, promises and hope. The onus, therefore lies with us. Parents?, for a start,? should lead by example and not use their phones while driving. Children will learn.

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