Greek philosopher Heraclitus long ago advised us that change is the only constant in life and we need not fear or reject it, especially when that change is for our good.
Such is the case with the new regulations under the Road Traffic (Amendment) Act which bans the use of cell phones while driving.
It has been a long time in coming and this mediahouse stands in full agreement with a large section of Barbadians who deem it a necessity to save lives on our busy highways and byways.
One Barbadian female driver said she was “quite happy about it because people get distracted when they are on the road. When you really think about it, when you are trying to multitask something is going to drop.”
A middle-aged driver who never uses his phone behind the wheel said it was a necessary move.
“It now paves the way for police to charge people who drive and text. Most of the accidents in Barbados are caused like that, especially at the roundabouts. I think there is a need for it and I am with it.”
If there is any quarrel to be had about the cell phone ban, it simply would be that the authorities should have conducted an effective public education campaign weeks ago to alert drivers about the importance, requirements and penalties associated with the new law.
Several drivers complained that while they were aware of the changes, they were unclear about the implementation date.
Engaging the public would also have been helpful since, ultimately, the goal is to get the public’s buy-in and a change of attitude, rather than simply scaring people into compliance.
That aside, banning the use of cell phones while driving just makes sense.
There is nothing more frustrating than seeing drivers using their phones instead of watching the road.
Most of us can admit to doing it on a regular basis, but just because we have been accident free so far doesn’t mean we will always be so lucky.
Just two months into the New Year, this island has already recorded three road fatalities against the backdrop of a gruesome 2017 when 28 roads deaths were recorded.
While we can’t blame each accident on the use of a cell phone, it would be foolhardy not to take strong action, no matter how bitter, to stop the carnage on our roads.
During his traffic report on Starcom Network yesterday evening, Sergeant Seibert Johnson suggested that cell phones were a key factor in accidents occurring across the island.
“Seventy-five per cent of our accidents last year were rear-on collisions, and there had to be a distraction somewhere. The use of cell phones is a distraction, and I believe the ministry saw it fit where they can introduce legislation which deals with it . . . . I don’t have a problem with that.
“Persons shouldn’t drive and use cellular phones . . . . I’m sure that if you go to an international country you can’t, so we must adjust as well,” Johnson said.
The legislation, which was proclaimed on December 11 last year and published in the Official Gazette on December 28, prohibits driving with a cell phone to the ear and having a conversation. Drivers can no longer use an earpiece or headset to have a cell phone conversation while driving. Motorists are, however, allowed conversations on phones connected to Bluetooth.
The penalty for offenders is severe but justifiably fits the offence.
Drivers who break the law may be ordered by the court to pay a $2,000 fine, spend 18 months in jail, or both.
That should be enough to scare drivers into full compliance. But, of course, there are some who will take a chance—and foolishly so.
The fact is, there is no safe time for distraction while driving. Distractions like cell phones impair the driver’s ability to safely control their vehicle and respond to any occurrences on the road.
Do we really need to be connected 24/7? Life didn’t fall apart before the advent of mobile devices, so not being allowed to use your cell phone during a 15-minute, 25-minute or hour–long drive will not trigger any catastrophic event.
We have to put safety first, and therefore we must use our technology, especially our cell phones, with common sense and certainly not driving.