Hand-free phones distract drivers

Motorist are still using mobile phones while driving despite various awareness campaigns, fines and accidents on the roads. Pawan Singh / The National
Motorist are still using mobile phones while driving despite various awareness campaigns, fines and accidents on the roads. Pawan Singh / The National

ABU DHABI // Motorists using hands-free on their mobile phones while driving should face penalties, road-safety experts say.

Capt Abdulla Al Ghafli, a road and traffic engineer at Abu Dhabi Police, said the distraction of using hand-held and hands-free devices – and the risk to road users – was virtually the same.

“Usually the driver is distracted from his driving task,” Capt Al Ghafli said. “A crash could be serious enough to cause injury or death.”

The penalty for using a hand-held phone while driving is Dh200 and four black points on the driver’s licence. But using hands-free devices is permitted.

Last year more than 30,000 tickets were issued to drivers for using a mobile phone while driving in Abu Dhabi, compared with 8,000 in 2008, he said.

The call to penalise all drivers using phones comes after Abu Dhabi Police ran a survey of more than 6,000 motorists.

The study, Mobile Phones and their Impacts on Road Safety, found almost three in five admit to using a mobile while driving despite knowing the dangers.

More than a quarter (27 per cent) say they have been in an accident while talking on the phone, and 24 per cent say they have been fined for phone use, the survey shows.

Sixty-three per cent of those who say they use a phone while driving are Emirati.

“Our main objective is to come up with a mechanism to manage this phenomenon to improve road safety,” said Capt Al Ghafli.

“We carried out a survey, analysed and evaluated the results and came up with a number of findings and recommendations.”

The study found that 64 per cent of those using a mobile phone while driving are between the ages of 18 and 30 – the age group with the highest number of traffic accidents.

More than four in five (87 per cent) of those surveyed say driving with a phone reduces concentration, while 74 per cent say it causes the vehicle to swerve between lanes.

Ninety-two per cent of the respondents say they are aware that using a hand-held phone while driving is a traffic offence; 91 per cent say it could lead to a road accident; and 78 per cent believe people who do it are four times more likely to be in a crash.

Four in five (80 per cent) say drivers using phones are likely to commit other traffic offences, while 54 per cent say mobile phone use impairs driving performance, reduces response time by 18 per cent, and decreases one’s ability to leave a safe distance between cars.

“The driver becomes distracted and loses his concentration,” Capt Al Ghafli said. “Using a mobile phone while driving can result to a delayed reaction and braking response time, and can lead to rear-end collisions.”

The study also recommends developing a joint study with the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority to come up with solutions to curb mobile phone use while driving.

Crash investigation practices should be improved and linked with data from telecoms firms Etisalat and du to verify whether a driver was using his phone while behind the wheel.

A comprehensive system should also be developed to raise awareness about mobile phone use while driving, and its effectiveness should be measured, the study suggests.

“Instead of broad educational messages or imposing higher penalties, we must continue educating motorists about practical tips and tricks on how to deal with mobile phones, such as ‘before you step into your car, silence your phone and put it away’,” Thomas Edelmann, founder of Road Safety UAE.

“Enforcement is key and authorities should step up efforts to find creative solutions to catch offenders, such as CCTV camera mapping, police patrols in cars and policemen on the roadside.”


Published: December 6, 2014 04:00 AM


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