A picture is worth a thousand words. What then do we make of the rather large Department of Transport (DoT) billboard on Main Road, just off Witkoppen, in Magaliessig, northern Johannesburg?
“Texting while driving is for idiots. Don’t do it. Unless you are an idiot.” it boldly reads.
Well, that’s putting it in such plain and simple English that even idiots who text and drive (and, as we shall see, there are many) can understand it … If they’d take a moment to look up from their phones, of course.
There are a few important things to consider, here. I admit having a bit of a giggle when I first noticed the billboard – which I imagine most people would. “I’d love to meet whoever came up with that slogan,” I thought. Then I gave the message a bit more consideration and tried to figure out what angle the DoT, in all its bluntness, was coming from.
After all, it could be construed that it is fine for you to text and drive if you are a self-confessed idiot … I’m sure, though, the DoT is playing at most motorists’ egos, who will tell you they are not idiots.
Nonetheless, according to an article published by ArriveAlive, it takes nearly three times longer to compose a message from behind the wheel than from behind a desk, increasing the chance of a collision … Drivers who send text messages while driving spend a whopping 400 percent more time with their eyes on their phones than on the road!
ArriveAlive claims that the reaction times of a texting driver deteriorate by 35 percent. This is worse than those who drink alcohol at the legal limit (12 percent), or those who take cannabis (21 percent). The risk of a heavy-vehicle or truck driver causing a crash or near-crash was found to be 23,2 times higher when texting than a non-distracted driver.
(As an aside, for heavyweight drivers the risk of a crash or near crash is more than 5,9 times higher when dialling, and 6,7 times higher when reaching for or using an electronic device, compared to non-distracted driving.)
These are some scary statistics – made even scarier when you consider that, of the 14 160 South African drivers (in general) polled by market research firm Ipsos last year, a massive 41 percent admitted to texting, e-mailing or using social media while driving.
This statistic itself means two things. One, we are one of the most guilty countries in the world when it comes to this act. Two, practically one in two drivers on the roads are likely to be giving 400 percent more time to their phones than to paying attention to other motorists with whom they share the roads!
When you think about it in those terms, you can see what the DoT is getting at. You really are an idiot if you text and drive. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather not put my life in the hands of the 41 percent of road users who are clearly idiots.
You might even be guilty of this yourself, though you may think: “But I only do it when stationary, at a traffic light.” Think about it, that’s really no better. Not being aware of your surroundings opens you up to falling victim to theft and/or hijacking, nor are you watching for the flashing lights of hurried emergency vehicles (you should see the lights before you hear the sirens).
When you’re behind the wheel, distracted by a text message, e-mail or Facebook post, you’re not thinking about driving; you can’t act or react and you put yourself and other drivers at huge risk.
It’s simple. Don’t text and drive – even if you are an idiot.
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