Time to ban deadly electronic distractions

It’s time to ban all road users, including pedestrians and cyclists, from using cellphones or wearing earphones, says the car review website dogandlemon.com.  

Dogandlemon.com editor Clive Matthew-Wilson, who is an active road safety campaigner, says:  

“Electronic distractions are rapidly becoming one of the biggest factors in our rising road toll. The American National Safety Council estimates 26% of all traffic crashes involve drivers using cellphones.  This has to stop.”

Matthew-Wilson also wants to stop pedestrians and cyclists texting or wearing earphones.

“A 2012 study showed that the number of pedestrians suffering serious injury while wearing headphones tripled between 2004 and 2012.”  

Multiple people are dying because they can’t hear the approach of a train or motor vehicle.”

“In the last weekend alone, three pedestrians died after being hit by trains in New Zealand. This is a global trend, and the usual reason is that the person was either texting or wearing earphones or headphones.”

“People wearing earphones and headphones go into a trance-like state that can easily end in tragedy. Drivers wearing headphones frequently miss what’s going on around them, including pedestrians, red lights, stop signs and even police sirens. Pedestrians walk in front of cars and trains.”  

Texting while walking is just as hazardous, says Matthew-Wilson.

People texting on cellphones as they cross roads are four times more likely to ignore oncoming traffic and disobey the lights, according to another study.

Matthew-Wilson says that trying to educate road users about the dangers of electronic distraction is probably a waste of time.  

There is little evidence that people change their behaviour as a result of road safety ad campaigns.”  

Instead, Matthew-Wilson believes that all road users, including pedestrians, should be banned from using earphones headphones and cellphones.  

"You're not allowed to drive drunk, why should you be allowed to drive or cross the road while you're in a trance?"

“We could have led the world on this, but instead we’re trailing it; other countries have already acted."

Hawaii has already banned the use of cellphones on pedestrian crossings.

California is one of 13 American states that has some kind of restriction on earphones used while driving or cycling. Four states have complete bans.

Japan bans the use of earphones while cycling.

However, Matthew-Wilson says, ticketing offenders is largely a waste of time, because many people are addicted to electronic distractions and will risk a ticket to maintain their addiction.   

“Despite all the traffic fines, cellphone use while driving is one of the most common offences in the world.”  

“Multiple studies have shown that fines and even the threat of disqualification are largely ineffective against the two of the highest risk groups of road users – teenagers and  poor people.”    

Instead, Matthew-Wilson believes offenders should be warned for the first offence, and for the second offence they should have their electronic device confiscated.  

“That’s sounds harsh, but it would work. You can’t be distracted by an electronic device if a policeman has just confiscated it.” 

“The alternative is a lot of dead bodies.”