Now guess what's going to happen in a second or two. Texting while driving is potentially lethal.
Johannesburg – Distractions while driving are one of the central causes of accidents on the road, and it’s getting worse with the increased use of smartphones and other electronic devices in the car.

A road-safety study by insurance company Allianz reveals that distractions double the risk of an accident.

The Allianz Center for Technology (AZT) study surveyed 1600 car-drivers from Germany, Austria and Switzerland and found that the risk of an accident increases significantly when drivers focus more on technical devices and less on the road. About 60 percent of drivers who had accidents in the past three years reported using their cellphones manually while driving.

In Germany, accidents caused by distractions killed 350 on the roads last year, even more than the 256 people who died in an accident with someone under the influence of alcohol.

“This result does not come as a surprise to us,” says Delphine Maïdou, Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty (AGCS) Africa CEO and President of the Insurance Institute of South Africa (IISA). “The more varied the technology and the more complicated its operation, the greater the distraction from road traffic and the more dangerous the driver is.”

According to the Allianz study, every second driver commits cellphone violations (46 percent), and approximately three quarters of the respondents report being regularly distracted by the use of built-in technical devices in the vehicle (74 percent). Nearly 40 percent of respondents operate the navigation system while driving, and 58 percent use the radio function via the dashboard menu.

Fifteen percent of all drivers type text messages and 24 percent read them using their smartphone. Among the participants up to 24 years of age, this proportion is significantly higher as 23 percent of the respondents in this age group type text messages while driving and 27 percent read them. Twenty nine percent (of all ages) report checking their cellphones to see who has contacted them.

In South Africa the major cause of road deaths (58 percent) is alcohol-related, but a significant 25 percent of accidents are caused by the use of mobile phones, says Allianz.

“The country is among the worst for texting while driving which contributes to distracted driving being an epidemic sweeping the roads,” said an Allianz spokesman.

And although the use of mobile devices while driving is against the law, local authorities are still taking distracted driving less seriously whilst it is receiving much attention internationally.