Friday, March 20, 2009

A Wake Up Call for Mobile Phone and IPod Users in Cars

Driving along the freeway these days I’m astounded how many drivers I see using mobile phones, either texting or calling, either using the handset or hands-free. And I can admit to using hands-free myself from time to time, even though I know it’s a safety risk, regardless of its legality. I think it’s a risk we all take, but it has to stop; lives are being lost on the roads every minute as we hurtle our 100kph machines around each other in such carefree fashion.

Dr. Phil featured a program this week highlighting the issues of “killer texting” using illustratively the worst passenger train disaster in California’s history, with twenty five people dying as a result. Only 22 seconds prior to the collision of the two trains, the other a freight train, the engineer of the passenger train sent a text message. How could a person in an operational-critical role such as that undertake such at-risk behaviour, with a payload of passengers at his disposal?

Then again, listening to 98.5 Sonshine FM later the same day there was a story of IPod use and headphones whilst driving. The two recommendations from the report that was profiled sought to urge people to 1) not use headphones hooked up to their IPod’s when they drive in the car, as headphones screen out essential road noise and the sounds of traffic we need in order to be aware of our environment and to make the right driving decisions, and, 2) to preset the songs they want to play to avoid needing to scroll through and make selections whilst driving.

Then further, there’s the issue of driving tired. We’ve all done it, yet it’s playing with death. How many die every year from falling asleep at the wheel and having crashes. Too many. And again, we eat and drink when driving because we think erroneously that we can operate a car safely with one hand.

Driving is a complex task, requiring all our powers of concentration. We can all relate to this if we’re honest. We all have behaviours and habits that reinforce inattention on the road, yet we continue taking the risks.

We live in a mad world in this way. We take risks routinely and think nothing of it most of the time. Yet, the person in Casualty or Emergency Rooms is somewhat amazed to say, ‘It happened all so quickly--I didn’t have time to react.’ A swath of death and destruction (physical and emotional, as well as property) is often what’s left.

It’s time for all of us to wake up and make a commitment to ourselves, for our own and others’ safety, from today. That commitment would be to make the driving task a sacred one that we honour appropriately with all our concentration. Let’s finally get serious about this life/death matter. It’s time!

Copyright © 2009, S. J. Wickham. All Rights Reserved Worldwide.

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