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Motorists urged to hold the wheel, not the phone
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 05 - 04 - 2012


Saudi Gazette
It is not uncommon to see motorists in the Kingdom talking on their mobile phones while driving and getting preoccupied with other things instead of fully concentrating on the road. Commentator Suleiman Al-Nahabi has called such dangerous habits “a sword with one edge” as these can cost lives.
One young man acknowledges the dangers associated with driving while talking on the phone. Abdulmohsen Al-Brahim said, “I rely on my smartphone for conducting business, checking up on my family at home, and staying in touch with my relatives and friends. I use my phone at almost all times, but I have a strict rule when it comes to using my phone in the car: I rarely talk on the phone when I am driving. If there is an urgent need to call someone, I usually slowly stop at the side of the road to complete my phone call. Talking on the mobile phone while driving has been the culprit behind one too many fatal car accidents.”
“Talking, chatting and surfing the Web via mobile devices have taken up almost all of the younger generation's free time. Teenage boys witness their fathers talking on the phone while driving, and these boys will most probably do the same when they have their own cars. Unfortunately, talking on the phone while driving has become a common trend in the Kingdom,” said Yousef Suleiman.
Yousef's brother, Nawaf, has also observed that “social gatherings, lunch with family and extended relatives, and hanging out with friends have all lost their meaning and purpose because each person is so distracted by his own mobile phone that people don't even talk to each other anymore. Sometimes reading text messages, sending e-mails and chatting with faraway friends take precedence over genuinely listening to your family members who are in the same room as you.”
“The Internet and smartphones have shortened distances and allowed friends and relatives from distant countries to keep in touch and to maintain close relationships. However, these devices should not take the place of personal communication with your immediate family and should not be used when driving,” said another Saudi national, Ali Al-Hamad.
Dr. Nahida Al-Zuheir, who is especially concerned about the safety of children on the road, has launched a campaign in the Kingdom to address the alarming trend. The “Protect Them” campaign aims to educate the public on the dangers and fatalities that could result from motorists' preoccupation with their mobile phones while driving.
“Studies show that 25 percent of all motor accidents in Saudi Arabia in the past two years were caused by talking on the mobile phone while driving,” said Dr. Al-Zuheir.
The World Health Organization had conducted a study assessing the road traffic knowledge and behavior of drivers in the Eastern Province in Saudi Arabia, reported in the Eastern Mediterranean Health Journal. With a random sample of 2,469 drivers from Dammam, Al-Khobar, Qateef and Jubail, the study found that 52 percent of the respondents had been involved in previous road traffic accidents. Although 75 percent were seatbelt compliants, 60 percent used mobile phones while driving.
Concerned citizens are calling for the stricter implementation of laws in order to catch and penalize errant drivers for using their mobile phones irresponsibly while on the road. __


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