Cape Town 081029. Motorists using cellphones to send text messages while driving is the cause of many accidents onb our roads. Picture ian landsberg.

Lauren Isaacs

WHETHER man or woman, chief executive officer or housewife, nothing justifies using a cellphone while driving – and a woman’s excuse of being able to multi-task does not count.

Out of four distractive driving tendencies, South Africans are most commonly guilty of using cellphones while driving, a recent study found.

The spokesman for Cape Town Traffic Services, Kevin Jacobs, said 4 184 drivers in six months had been fined for the unlawful use of a cellphone while driving.

In an online survey, 100 people were asked to select one of four things they were guilty of doing while behind the wheel.

The survey was conducted by CIB Insurance Administrators, and drivers admitted to the following:

l Operating their cellphones while driving – 70 percent.

l Eating and drinking – 17 percent.

l Grooming in the rear-view mirror – 7 percent.

l Concentrating on a GPS device rather than on the road – 6 percent.

“The purpose of this survey was to create greater awareness and encourage more responsible driving practices,” said the chief operating officer at CIB, Andrew Lilley.

“We are often unaware that it is a distraction because it has become a part of everyday life. It is often a ‘time-filler’ while driving between destinations.

“Cellphone use is the most common kind of distractive behaviour because of daily pressures. As more and more demands are being put on people to deliver and perform, mobile services have provided the perfect solution to meet those demands. Cellphones have evolved from a simple communication tool used for talking to fully fledged interactive devices where e-mails and documents can be retrieved.

“Perhaps we can try to encourage stricter law enforcement – it appears to be working for drunk drivers – and I am sure that a similar approach to the use of such devices while driving will have a similar beneficial result,” he said.

The Automobile Association strongly recommends cellphones be switched off while driving, says its head of public affairs, Gary Ronald.

“Driver distraction is probably six times more dangerous than driving drunk. If a driver over the legal alcohol limit of 0.05 already has the potential risk of being involved in a crash 15 times more than a sober person, the context of distraction is even more frightening.

“The social media platform has made driving more hazardous,” he said.

Transport and Public Works spokesman Steven Otter said distractions were often caused by the use of cellphones.

“This is a major problem on our roads as we regularly witness drivers losing control while distracted by their mobile phones,” he said.

Dealing with this problem was part of the Safely Home Campaign, a project of the Department of Transport and Public Works, Otter added.

The campaign, which aims to clamp down on traffic offenders, started at the beginning of 2009, and since then, road deaths are down by 25 percent.

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