DRIVING pet-hates – we all have them. Slow drivers, fast drivers, inconsiderate drivers. People who fail to indicate, that’s definitely one of mine. I say “one of” because I have quite a few. But there’s one that really takes the biscuit, that really rattles me and gets the blood boiling. People who use their mobile phones while driving. I really can’t abide by it. Aside from being ridiculously dangerous, have these people forgotten it’s actually against the law?
But from what I see on the commute every day, a £60 fine and three points don’t seem to be enough of a deterrent. The number of drivers I’ve passed or sat behind in traffic using their mobile phones is scarily high (especially scary if they are behind the wheel of a 40 foot artic truck whose wheels could easily crush little old me).
It’s not like this is a minor offence. Anything that distracts you while you are driving – be it a cigarette, a music player, or a mobile phone in this case - is bad news. And for those few seconds that your eyes are off the road to send a text, or the minutes you spend driving one-handed (a skill many seem to have mastered but still remains a complete mystery to me), you put lives at risk. And I think it is just downright selfish. In the same way as a person who gets drunk or takes drugs and gets behind the wheel. And in some cases, it can be even worse. Experts say reading a text or talking on the phone while driving makes people 30 per cent less responsive than those who have had a drink.
And the consequences don’t really bear thinking about. I remember attending a drive safe event at school, and they showed a short film of a young girl texting and veering straight into the path of an oncoming car. She killed two passengers and the other driver and had to live with the guilt, all for a funny joke which could have been sent five minutes later.
Which is a good point – nothing can be so important that it cannot wait surely? And if it is, what is the harm in stopping safely for two minutes to return a call or send a message (although I have to admit, the number of people who stop in stupid places – on top of a mini roundabout springs to mind – give this option a bad name).
Of course, using a built-in hands free system is the way to go – activated at the push of one button, as you would do to change the radio station – and both hands kept firmly on the wheel during the conversation. Thankfully, the number of new car models which come with this kind of technology already installed is on the up, meaning drivers are helped to make the right choices when it comes to road safety.
But what annoys me is the number of company van and truck drivers who don’t seem to have this technology at their disposal. I drive at peak times, when a lot of workers who use company vehicles are off to on-site jobs, and sadly, I have to say that these are the worst offenders. You would think that they would be more careful – the chance of penalty points on a licence which they use for their job could mean the difference between employment and the dole queue. But, in the case of workers employed by a company I also accept that it is really the responsibility of the bosses to make sure their employees have the most safety-conscious technology at their disposal. Would they send their boys out without hard hats and safety visors? I doubt it.
I think it’s about time that using a mobile while driving became as shameful as getting behind the wheel after having a drink.