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USE OF CELLPHONE WHILE DRIVING IS GETTING MORE RAMPANT By Mazi Nnamdi Nwigwe

The very dangerous habit of using the cellphone while driving has become so rampant nowadays that one wonders what the relevant authorities meant to check the practice are doing.

Nearly every other vehicle that passes by has its driver with one hand on the steering wheel while the other is clutching a cellphone handset to the ear

Irresponsible adult drivers can be seen talking on the phone while approaching roundabouts, road junctions and built-up zones like markets and schools.

About two years ago, a research report from Japan revealed that driving a vehicle while speaking on phone was THREE TIMES more dangerous than drunk-driving.

Isn’t it horrifying!

Surely one needs a hundred percent concentration while driving to be able to avoid accidents.

And when one uses the telephone, one also requires a reasonable concentration to communicate intelligently with the person at the other end of the line.

So how can these vital actions that require attention be combined without expecting some consequences

Many accidents happen on our highways and city streets caused by drivers answering to or making calls while on the move.

Infact some people have been seen actually texting while driving. This they do by placing the cellphone on the steering and tapping the numbers while still moving.

Even commercial transport drivers carrying passengers have been seen answering their cellphone while on high speed approaching bridges and built-up areas such as villages, schools and playing grounds.

When there is a crash the misbehaving driver quickly tucks away the cellphone. But in a real disaster, when a vehicle veers off the highway, the offending driver may not be able to hide the cellphone because he himself is dead or squelched against the steering while many more victims are wreathing in pains and struggling for their lives.

What should be done to stop this criminal behaviour?

The Federal Road Safety Commission, FRSC, personnel should increase surveillance on the highways while the police and other security officials should be ready to punish offenders on the spot when caught.

The public should also help save lives by stopping drivers from talking on the phone where they are passengers.

Citizens should be encouraged to report offenders by sending the vehicle plate numbers of any offending driver to the police or FRSC.

Dedicated numbers should be established and published for this purpose.

A good Nigerian making such a report should include the time the offence was committed as well as the exact location of the vehicle.

No doubt there could be denials but the fact that a person receives a note of caution from either the FRSC or police for an alleged driving-and-phoning offence on a particular day is sobering enough.

There may be the issue of logistics as to how to locate an offending driver or car owner when a report is received.

Police and FRSC know they can obtain details of every registered vehicle if they consider the offence serious enough.

We do not have to be victims ourselves or relations of victims to appreciate the danger of allowing people on steering to be making telephone calls.

People should have the habit of pulling out of the road, stop at a safe place and take or make a call if it is considered necessary.

Otherwise such calls could wait until one is out of the streets or highways.

People still carried on business when we had only table telephones that rested at homes and offices.

Telephone communications with hands-free gadgets were originally meant for pilots of aircraft and merchant vessels who needed to be fed with directional and other operational information while they are up in the skies or on the high seas.

Owners of ocean-going vessels needed to know about the fate of their crew and goods as they roamed the world.

There is really no need for our people to want to telephone for purely social interaction while driving because of the dangers involved.

It is sheer bad habit and adult delinquency which must be stopped.

It is quite interesting to notice that a majority of offenders of telephoning while driving are now adults and not teenagers as in the past.

Among the more notorious of offenders are professionals who are not even bothered that their vehicles are carrying stickers that proclaim their proud professions.

Governments should adopt a proactive posture to stop this habit by imposing stiff fines for offenders.

In repeated offences, the driving licences could be seized for a period.

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