Wot R u doing u numskulls? Our compulsive texting kills
NSW now has the toughest mobile phone laws in Australia where if you do anything other than pick up your phone to pass it to a passenger you will be hit with a $298 fine and lose three demerit points.
Even pressing silent or stop to kill an incoming call will be illegal, in keeping with the mountain of research showing how massively distracting any use of the phone is while you’re behind the wheel. Now, Victoria’s top highway patrol cop wants to go one better and make it illegal even to have your mobile switched on while you are in the car at all.
It sounds on the face of it like an overreaction. Certainly it would make life incredibly difficult for the many people whose jobs require them to be in contact while out on the road, people who work in sales and deliveries, and who are set up with all the latest hands-free Bluetooth gizmos.
Setting those people aside, I would have absolutely no problem with the proposal by Victoria’s Inspector Dave Griffin for a total ban, as there is no phone call so urgent that you can’t return it after you have stopped driving the car.
And you really have to doubt how many of the phone calls, texts or tweets which are made or received while driving fall into the urgent category. Rather, they reflect the ludicrous modern-day obsession with checking your phone habitually every minute just in case someone has sent you a message.
How many times have you been sitting at a red light and when it turns green the car in front of you sits there motionless, the driver with their head down scrolling through their phone? It happens more often than not at intersections these days. A mate of mine got rear-ended the other day by a texter.
When he was at the panel-beaters they told him they regarded the mobile phone as the greatest invention of all time, saying that almost all of their work these days was $1000-$2000 repair jobs to the back of people’s cars.
At the other end of the spectrum are the massive prangs caused by phones. My parents were almost involved in one a couple of months ago. Coming around a bend on a country road doing 100 km/h, the car in front of them was hit head-on by an oncoming vehicle which had drifted onto the right-hand side of the road. The drivers of both vehicles died.
The bloke in the car in front of them was in his 40s and had two kids. The driver of the car which hit him was in her 20s. The cops found her phone on the floor of her car, a half-composed text message on the screen.
It is totally absurd the extent to which we think our phone is so important to our lives. It has almost taken on the form of an obsessive-compulsive disorder.
One study I read the other day said that in relationships, even the presence of a mobile phone on the dinner table can set your partner on edge, as it suggests that you are only partially focussed on them and have got your phone there just in case something more interesting or more important comes along.
It is not only ridiculous, on the roads it is lethal, and there is no reason to argue that it shouldn’t be totally banned, save for those who for work purposes have a genuine need to remain in touch and can do so in a safe way.