When I decided to focus on this, I sought for the progress made so far by the Federal Road Safety Corps which last year iced its strategies to curb this menace. My finding shows that since June 2017 when it rolled out the strategy till July 2018, the Corps has arrested 2,503 offenders while the same number has been referred for psychological evaluation. This figure is just for the Federal Capital Territory alone. Yet the scenario is not getting better as daily, drivers behind the wheels indulge in driving and phoning. The risks associated with this habit prompted Dermont to tweet that nobody can drive safely while using a mobile phone which incidentally is my chosen topic for this week. In the UK where Dermond lives and works, it is reported that more than one in 10 UK drivers believe the risks of using a mobile phone at the wheel are ‘overstated’, according to a new study of 2000 drivers which suggests that 23percent believe they can drive safely while using a mobile phone with 11percent saying the risks of the offence are‘overstated’.
64percent of respondents were unaware of the penalties for using a mobile phone at the wheel while 26percent did not know the penalties became more severe in March 2017.Although driving and phoning has been illegal since 2003, the need for tougher measures was affected in March 2017 which saw the fine and penalty point endorsement increase. Although the law makes exception allowing you to phone when parked or making a 999 or 112 in an emergency, it says if caught making illegal calls, you could pay 200pounds and six penalty pounds; new drivers could even land a driving ban for one offence while motorists can have their license revoked if they clock up six penalty in the first and two years of driving compared to the usual 12.These are measures I believe should be emulated to deter recalcitrant drivers.
Meanwhile, when asked what is critical in getting offenders to change their behavior, 41percent called for more visible enforcement while 22percent recommended stronger penalties. In total, 31percent believe the current penalties are not strong enough. The survey also shows that 18percent of drivers advocate the blocking of mobile phone signals within cars altogether, while 10percent think more public awareness campaigns, such as the Government’s THINK! initiative, are needed to educate offenders.
I know we had run a similar survey on the use of phone behind the wheels habit a couple of years back and I can tell you that the results were quite astounding. The finding of the FRSC commissioned attitudinal survey on motorists was conducted in 2013 by NOIPolls to do a road attitudinal survey across 6 locations in Nigeria. To measure the level of compliance on the road, the survey was conducted across pre identify corridors within 9hrs of the day in (morning, noon and evening) for 12 days.
The observation monitored the following: lane discipline, seatbelt/ crash helmet compliance, compliance to overloading rules, traffic light /road signs obedience and the number plate usage.The survey was carried out in 6 locations. Abuja, Lagos, Owerri, Benin, Kaduna, and Gombe. The survey was conducted via observational study.6 corridors in total selected by the clients were observed across all locations and 6b extra corridors were added by NOIPolls, given a total of 12 corridors observed. Observation was done by 8:30 am – 5:30 pm daily for 5 days.
A total of 70,180 vehicles/ bikes were observed across all 6 locations with 29,482 on the highway, and 40,698 on township roads. A total of vehicle/bikes observed by location were 13,426 in Abuja, 11,503 in gombe, 11,903 in owerri, 7936 in benin, 10,435 in lagos, and 14,977 in Kaduna.
The findings of the survey indicate that 90% of the total observed vehicles/bikes adhered to mobile phone usage rules while driving. Gombe (24%) recorded the highest proportion of drivers/riders that used mobile phones while driving.The highest proportion of drivers/riders that were seen using mobile phones while driving was recorded on Sunday (13%) and Bicycle riders (22%) were the most seen using mobile phones while driving. A breakdown of the survey indicated that in Abuja The vast majority (97%) of observed drivers/riders were not using mobile phones while driving. 19% of drivers/riders observed on Sunday were seen using mobile phones while driving and the highest proportion of drivers/riders seen using mobile phones while driving were drivers of VW brand cars (8%).The report for Gombe indicates that 24% of the total observed driver/rider in Gombe were seen using mobile phones while driving, with the highest recorded on Sunday (33%). Truck drivers (26%), Bicycles riders (26%) and VW brand car drivers (25%) were most observed to be using mobile phones while driving.
Although I could not lay my hands on comments generated through any surveys done here, it is interesting to note that the comments I stumbled on the net on the development in the UK reflects the kind of opinion that motorists here will pose. Before I take round some fresh development with respect to phone use while driving please allow me share some of these comments which you will find useful and amusing.
Enjoy as you read through them;. ‘’I am not necessarily justifying but, what is the difference between answering a phone call and having a conversation with the phone a stack (single button push – no difference to removing a hand to, say, adjust a heating control) or, even in a vehicle in which a phone is integral, and having a conversation with a passenger? And by qualification, I generally do not have conversations, as such, with passengers when I am driving. I wonder how many collisions involving the police (or other emergency vehicle) have occurred whilst the driver was driving with one hand (non-automatic) and with the other hand operating his lapel radio, talking and listening at the same time and at speed? I know it has to be done and it’s not exactly a casual, social conversation but I wonder why they don’t use the hands-free option when possible.