A motorist uses a cellphone while holding the steering wheel and a cigarette in her other hand while passing through an intersection Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2011, in Houston. The National Transportation Safety Board declared Tuesday that texting, emailing or chatting on a cellphone while driving is just too dangerous to be allowed anywhere in the United States and is urging all states to impose total bans except for emergencies. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Nearly 14 000 people die on South Africa's roads each year - that's 40 every day. And if that doesn’t scare you, you shouldn’t be driving. Worldwide, more people are killed as a result of road accidents than malaria; food for thought, that.

And one of the leading causes of road accidents is driving while distracted, says Caryl Kolk of the Automobile Association. Studies show that if you are using your cellphone while driving, you are four times more likely to be involved in an accident than if you weren't.

When driving, it takes, on average, 2.5 seconds to check your phone, so if you are driving at 100km/h hour you will cover the length of a rugby field without seeing what's happening on the road around you. If you're preoccupied with updating your Facebook status will you notice the children crossing the road or the car that has suddenly stopped in front of you?

Being alert and aware of your surroundings is your best defence.

Even if you only use your cellphone at a red light or when stationary, research shows you still miss as much as 50 percent of what's happening around you - which makes you a soft target for criminals, increasing your risk of becoming a victim of smash and grabs or even hijacking.

Not only that, but you could also collect a hefty fine, as using a cellphone while driving is against the law. Remember, as long as the engine is running you're still legally driving, even if the car is standing still at a red light.

Cellphones have become a normal part of everyday life, but the risks associated with using them while driving are just too high. Only one solution remains: break the habit.


Use a hands-free device: In an ideal world we would be able to avoid picking up our cellphones while driving, but when you simply can't be separated from your phone, use a hands-free device.

Keep your cell phone out of reach: Reduce the temptation to check in on Facebook or read your emails while driving. Put your phone somewhere you can't see it suchas in your bag or in the boot.

Switch off your phone: Switch off, or set to 'Silent' and avoid the temptation to take a call or read a text message. Change your voicemail greeting to "I can't take your call because I am either in a meeting or driving" - maybe others will do the same.

Keep both hands on the steering wheel: Your hands should be on your steering wheel at all times when you are not changing gears. Keep this in mind the next time you want to pick up your cellphone while driving.

Use voice activated apps: These days many smartphones have voice activated apps that allow you to dial or even type an SMS using your voice. That way you can stay in touch without taking your eyes off the road.


If you have to call or SMS while driving, pull off the road safely and stop. Break the habit and don't become another statistic!