Tech Thursday: Is using your cellphone while driving worth the risk?

Here’s a social experiment to try for yourself: the next time you’re driving on the road make a note of how many people are on their cellphones while driving. You’d be surprised at how many people you spot during your journey and how this distraction affects their mobility.

Research shows that cellphone usage while driving affects driver competence, resulting in a 37% decrease in parietal lobe activity in the brain. Modern cellphones have the ability to make and receive calls, send text messages, watch videos, browse the net, take pictures and a variety of other functions which increase their distracting nature.

Alcohol and speeding make up the bulk of reasons for road accidents but distracted driving is a close third.

It is no wonder that South Africa experiences 32 accidents per 100,000 people per year according to stats by the International Transport Forum’s 2013 Road Safety Annual Report. The economic impact of these accidents is R307 billion a year, which represents between 8 percent – 10 percent of the country’s GDP.

Many modern cars come equipped with built-in hands free kits for cellphones and if they don’t, there’s a lot of wearable technology to use. There are simply no excuses for using your cellphone while driving.

What does the law say about driving and using your cellphone?

South African National Road Traffic Act prohibits the use of a cellphone while driving. This is not just limited to talking on one’s phone, but also holding a phone or other communicating devices when driving.

A summary of the act stipulates:

  • You may use such a device ONLY IF it is NOT being held in your hand or with any other part of your body.
  • You may also not use the cellphone at traffic lights even when the vehicle is not moving – if the engine is running you are considered to be driving.
  • Transgressing the Rules of the Road includes taking photos, browsing the internet and participation on social media platforms when driving.
  • Officials are NO LONGER exempted. They used to be in the past (if it was in the course of executing their official duties), but that exemption was removed from the regulations a few years ago. So don’t let any traffic officer or metro police official try to tell you otherwise.

How can driving and using your cellphone affect your insurance?

  •  A driver may be charged if erratic driving or a collision results from inattention, regardless of what else may be going on.
  • Even though insurance policies are designed to cover the insured for their negligent behaviour, they may not pay out claims if they find out the policyholder did not act with “due care” to avoid an accident or loss or damage.
  • If a court finds that an accident or damage was caused due to recklessness, the insurer may choose to not cover the claim.
  • If the policyholder does not accept that their claim was declined, the matter can reach the courts where the insurer would have to prove that the cellphone through data records and activity logs on social media.


Caxton Central

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