Using phones while driving in most countries is illegal, but some people have no qualms about breaking this law. Offenders in the UAE are fined Dh800 and are docked four black points. Image Credit: Pexels

I believe I’ve superpowers. I can spot a motorist on a cellphone a mile away. Ignore the superpower bit because the tell-tale signs are obvious.

If a person uses a phone while driving, the vehicle will be super slow on a highway, and you will be forced to overtake it. More noticeable is the driver’s inability to go in a straight line, sometimes even veering into the neighbouring lane.

When I spot such motorists, I steer clear of them. Because they are a danger to themselves and other motorists. And they are totally oblivious to the threat they pose.

Why can’t that phone call wait?

I really can’t understand why people must use a mobile phone while driving. More so, since safe driving requires full concentration, you must be totally aware of what’s happening around you. Any distraction is a recipe for disaster. So why would anyone invite trouble?

I often see people walk to their cars, and as soon as the vehicle starts moving, they will have their phones clapped to their ears. How do you explain that? Why can’t they have that conversation before they drive away? Well, that’s because they don’t want to waste time. When driving and a phone call can be done together, why not? That seems to be the attitude.

These people don’t realise they are risking their lives and putting others at risk. A slower reaction to a swiftly unfolding situation can lead to a tragedy. Lives can be lost. Irreparable damage can happen. Why would anyone want to be responsible for it? Beats me!

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These errant drivers seem unaware of the possible consequences of their actions. They are so confident in their driving skills that they don’t think it could lead to road crashes. And deaths.

Some don’t just talk on the phone, they even text while driving. That’s even worse since it takes distraction to another level. That’s a tragedy waiting to happen.

I’ve even seen drivers watching YouTube, Reels, TikTok or some such videos at the wheel. That’s just unbelievable, but drivers do it. If you don’t believe me, check the motorists at a traffic signal.

A call triples the crash risk

There are more violations, like taking photos and videos while driving. These are more frequent when it rains. I agree these sights are beautiful, but please pull over and shoot. Better still, ask a fellow passenger to film it.

The hazards of distracted driving are well known. Answering a call triples the crash risk, while texting increases the risk by 23 times. An Abu Dhabi Police survey showed that around 80 per cent of road deaths and serious injuries are caused by “motorists browsing the internet and talking on social media and on phones while driving”.

This is why using phones while driving in most countries is illegal. But some people have no qualms about breaking this law. Abu Dhabi Police fined 105,300 motorists for using mobile phones while driving during the first half of 2022. That hasn’t stopped motorists from flouting the law.

Police are watching you

One of my colleagues was fined for using the mobile while driving. He realised that only after receiving a text message from the police. Offenders in the UAE are fined Dh800 and are docked four black points on their licence.

Police patrols are fitted with advanced cameras and systems to detect drivers who do not wear seatbelts, use mobile phones while driving, speeding and other violations. So be aware that the police are watching you. You might have gotten away with it several times, but you could be caught.

Each of us has a responsibility to ourselves and those around us. A phone call can wait: it can be returned later. Lives are more precious. You can’t get it back.

If you are driving, please don’t reach for the phone.