I’m the kind of person that has my iPhone in my hand at pretty much any given opportunity. In the way some people will walk around holding a pen that they tap away on things or chew the end of, I hold my phone tightly in my right hand. It’s my comfort thing, knowing I have it on me. If you try and hand me something at almost any hour of the day I will need to place my phone down to receive the item.
I’m a very anxious person, I’m constantly worried that if my mother hasn’t responded to my text message within twenty minutes she’s probably been in a horrific car accident and won’t be making it home from work that afternoon. Most people see my anxiety as highly irrational; I see it as preparing for the worst. When my loved ones answer a call or respond to a text message then I know that they’re okay. If I don’t receive a response, especially after a few hours I really begin to worry.
Given my worry about making it home safely you’d think I’d be against phone usage while driving. I’m a hypocrite, I’m not.
My mother, partner and myself all bought new cars in the last twelve months and with modern vehicles comes modern technology, we all now have Bluetooth readily available to make safe calls while driving.
When I saw the above image, created by Bangalore Traffic Police I realized just how thankful I am that we were financially able to update to this level of technology in the past year. Before this I was making constant phone calls to both my mum and my boyfriend, while I myself was driving and when I knew that they were driving; sometimes the phone calls would occur when we were both behind the wheel of separate vehicles. It occurred more so with mum, who like me didn’t think twice about steering with one hand and holding her phone in the other.
My boyfriend would almost never answer his phone while driving, if he did it was a rare occasion and probably for a very important reason. But I would get annoyed by this, especially when we were meeting somewhere and he was late and would ignore my call due to being behind the wheel. He told me he was being ‘safe’ and that a large part of it was to ensure he wasn’t caught by police and docked points from his license. I told him that it was just annoying and that if I could go four years of texting and driving and calling and driving that him answering the phone to tell me how far away he was in 5 seconds wasn’t going to hurt anybody.
My reasoning wasn’t fair.
I find the ‘Don’t Talk While Driving’ campaign extremely powerful. It certainly got me thinking. When I first saw the image above, before even reading the slogan I was pretty grossed out. I’m not a huge fan of blood and avoid images of injury and death. But I quickly realised that the woman herself isn’t injured, the blood is spurting out of the phone speaker. That was when I saw the slogan ‘Don’t talk while he drives’. I then realized the meaning behind the image… not only is the driver responsible for an accident that is caused by the use of a phone while driving, but if they’re in a telephone call and the person on the other end of the line is aware that they are driving, is that person responsible too?
I believe that they are, I believe that if my boyfriend had taken a telephone call in the car, before he had Bluetooth access and was holding the device, that the pressure I had put on him to do so would make me responsible for the resulting accident that could range from minor (a small traffic incident with no injury) to extremely major (a fatal accident). If I was to call my mother and was aware that she was driving and neither of us made the decision to end the call and recommence at a more appropriate time, then we would both be to blame if things turned bad.
I believe that the person on the other end of the line has the power to end the call if they are aware that the person they are speaking to is driving. It would be the smartest decision. Figures from the RTA website between 2006 and 2010 show that mobile phone usage in NSW while driving resulted in four fatalities, 66 injury crashes and 87 tow-away crashes, over that four year period. Mobile phone ownership has increased since 2010, which means that more people now have access to using a mobile device while driving.
I believe that although people interpret images in different ways that the message in this one is pretty clear, if you’re on the phone to a friend, family member or even someone you don’t know very well and are aware that they are driving, hang up the phone and recommence the call at a better time. I believe that image is saying that the person on the other end of the line (the non-driver) is responsible too if they are aware of the situation.
I know that I will be a little more cautious from now on, although those closest to me have Bluetooth, many of my friends do not and if I know that they are putting themselves and other road users in a harmful situation then I should remove myself from the equation and hope that that results in them making a more responsible decision.