While driving, concentrate on driving only [Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)]
(Gulf News (United Arab Emirates) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Dubai: No phone call, text, e-mail, or Facebook update is more important than your life. Or, at least, that's how you should start seeing it if you habitually use your mobile phone while driving.
A Gulf News team randomly surveyed Dubai roads to assess the common blunders road users commit that could potentially endanger their lives, the lives of their passengers and those around them. Drivers talking on their mobile phones topped the list of these bad habits — although Gulf News also saw couples cuddling and people disregarding the seat belt law.
Robert Hodges, an internationally recognised road safety expert with decades of experience in commercial organisations and regulatory authorities in more than 20 countries, said he sees far more dangerous driving habits during his daily commute in Dubai.
From drivers munching on their breakfast behind the wheel to ladies putting on their make-up, Hodges has seen it all.
"Psychologically, we tend to concentrate on things that we think are more important. So, when we are driving and we hear the phone [beep or ring], our brain switches to answering the phone and away from cocentrating on driving," Hodges told Gulf News.
"We don't perceive that driving needs 100 per cent concentration. Somehow, many people believe the transit between point A and point B is wasted time. So many tend to multi-task," he added.
But multi-tasking while driving or distracted driving is a lethal combination. It not only takes your eyes off the road and your hands off the wheel, it also takes your mind off driving.
According to a World Health Organisation report for the Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020 Campaign, using a mobile phone while driving means you are four times more likely to be involved in a crash than a driver who is not using a phone. People using both hand-held and hands-free phones are at risk, contrary to popular opinion, because it is the cognitive or mental distraction that is the main risk factor and not just the physical distraction associated with holding the phone.
The same report said distracted driving impairs driving performance by delaying reaction time, the inability of the driver to stay in the correct lane, and to maintain an adequate distance between vehicles.
A Dh200 fine and four black points don't seem to have deterred the more than 44,000 motorists in Dubai penalised by police for speaking or texting in the first ten months of 2013 and the 17,500 motorists fined in Abu Dhabi in the first seven months of 2013.
Hodges said the rise of the smartphone further complicates the scenario. E-mails and social network notifications are now readily available on handsets. And since people have developed an increased urgency to check them regardless of the situation, it puts drivers at greater risk.
"Before they answer a call or check any notification, they must ask themselves first, "Is it really that important [compared to their safety]?"
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