A third of drivers admit using phone at wheel
ABU DHABI // Almost a third of motorists admit they regularly talk on the phone and read text messages while driving, although they know it is illegal.
More than a third regularly lose concentration while driving, a new survey suggests. This was particularly true for younger drivers aged 18 to 24, of whom 43 per cent admitted their full attention was not always on the road.
Nearly half of those surveyed believed there was a clear link between losing concentration while driving and being involved in an accident.
Research shows that taking your eyes off the road for two seconds at 100kph means that you are effectively driving blind for 55 metres.
Nearly 60 per cent of those surveyed said the behaviour of other drivers was the single biggest distraction on the road.
Making drivers more aware of potential distractions is crucial to improving road safety, said Thomas Edelmann, founder of Road Safety UAE, which conducted the survey of 1,007 drivers aged 18 to 40 with the insurance company Zurich.
“Distractions play a role in motorists swerving between lanes, driving too close to the vehicle in front, misjudging traffic situations and other leading causes of road accidents,” he said. “It is important for motorists to be aware of the many sources of distraction.
“Motorists must reflect on the distractions that they are most prone to succumb to and then combat those distractions.”
He said drivers should also be aware that others on the road may not be concentrating.
Sherif Hamza, 36, a sales executive in Abu Dhabi, spends at least six hours a day on the road and regularly sees near misses caused by drivers not concentrating.
“My job requires me to be on the road, answering calls from clients on my mobile phone but I use a bluetooth,” he said. “There are far too many drivers who talk on their mobile phones while driving and do not even use their indicators. Most of them are driving heavily tinted cars.”
Cab drivers, who spend more than 10 hours a day behind the wheel, witness more bad driving than most. Ajith Kumara, 34, a driver with Cars Taxi, said hand-held phones were a major cause of distraction and were especially dangerous when drivers were changing lanes, making a U-turn or negotiating a roundabout.
“Many continue using their mobile and do not even get a fine,” he said.
Other reasons the survey gives for loss of concentration are conversing with passengers (44 per cent), changing the radio station (40 per cent) and adjusting the air conditioning (34 per cent). Another 8 per cent admit they are sometimes distracted as they admire the skyline.
The study also found that 33 per cent of motorists listened to the radio to stay focused, and 17 per cent drank energy drinks. Speed cameras had a positive effect as 29 per cent said they helped them to concentrate, while 21 per cent said a police presence also aided concentration.
Just over half of those surveyed said the single biggest factor in being able to concentrate was being alone while driving.
“Becoming distracted while driving is a leading cause of accidents,” said Brian Reilly, chief executive of Zurich Insurance Middle East.
“People are limited in the amount of information they can process at any one time so the prevalent use of mobile phones by drivers, which requires eyes to be taken off the road and hands to be removed from the wheel, is troubling.”
He encouraged drivers to stow their mobile phone out of reach before setting off to ensure full concentration on the road and other cars.
The penalty for using a phone while driving is Dh200 and four black points on the driver’s licence.
Updated: September 2, 2014 04:00 AM