x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Urgent message to motorists: don't read this if you are driving

A text message warning drivers that they face a fine for reading it at the wheel is not the best tool to improve safety.

As text messages go, this one is clear enough, but puzzling all the same: "If you are driving and reading this, you will be fined." That warning is now being sent out by SMS service providers in Oman, in cooperation with the police.

Stop laughing. Texting at the wheel is a dangerous business. We can only assume that the people responsible for this particular message, reported yesterday in The National, have missed the irony of their action. (And by the way, if you're reading this - on paper or electronically - while driving, please stop one or the other right now; we want our readers to stay with us for many years to come.)

That SMS message was obviously well-intentioned. In a sense, even a self-contradictory warning is preferable to recurrent news stories about people, often young adults, killed while texting at the wheel.

The road-safety campaign, supported by this newspaper, has monitored tragic events in Oman this year; recently two weeks ago, seven Emiratis from one family were killed in a crash. It was not an isolated incident.

Next time you hear your notification sound while at the wheel, or are tempted to send a text, remember that a fine could be the least of the consequences you may face.