Texting while driving increases the chances of an accident by 23%.
That is according to new research released by private health care company Netcare into what has been labelled one of the leading causes of motor vehicle accidents on South Africa’s roads.
According to Netcare’s “Don’t Drive and Dial or Text” campaign, it takes on average 4.6 seconds to be distracted using a cellphone while driving – equivalent to covering the distance of a rugby field when travelling at 80km/h.
Netcare general manager Mande Toubkin said: “The impairments associated with drunken driving and texting while driving have much in common, and both are illegal in South Africa as well as being exceedingly perilous activities.”
Road Traffic Management Corporation spokesman Simon Zwane said: “The potential for crashes is higher when people text and drive or talk on the phone while driving.
“Because people know it is illegal to use a cellphone when driving, they will not concede it.”
Texting and driving is not the only distraction that could cause an accident.
Other distractions include using navigation systems, taking photographs, changing clothes, grooming, even talking to passengers in the car.
Eating, drinking and smoking are also on the list.
Zwane said accidents were more often caused by motorists aged between 20 and 35.
“Younger people are more likely to be involved in accidents related to using cellphones while driving,” he said. Nelson Mandela Bay residents agree.
Thobile Sonjica, 51, of Bluewater Bay, said: “It is very wrong – you put everyone else in danger.
“Many times I try to pass someone and find that they are busy with a phone call. When they talk on their cellphones, they concentrate more on their conversation than on the road.
“I do not text and drive. I cannot multitask, but I do need to train myself not to answer.”
Karin Kritzinger, 51, of Walmer, said: “It makes me angry to see people on their cellphones while driving. They slow down and do not concentrate on the road.
“I just let my phone ring when I am driving.”
Neil Goliath, 44, of Sydenham who rear-ended the car in front of him 10 years ago while he was preoccupied with his CD player, said: “Things can change in two seconds.
“The accident taught me to be more aware of my surroundings.”