I was listening casually to a programme I always enjoy on Sundays – “From The World’s Press” – on the SLBS about Midday yesterday, when I was shocked into reality by what I was hearing on the Radio. The facts and figures given by the Presenter about the frequency and severity of motor accidents caused by people driving and talking on their mobile phones at the same time was absolutely horrifying to say the least. And this is a problem right across the world, not just in Sierra Leone. Although we are all agreed that the mobile phone is an excellent invention and has helped considerably in opening up hitherto “dead” areas of the Country, the fact of the matter is that the mobile phone can also be a very dangerous “weapon” in the hand of any person who is driving a motor vehicle on any street or highway. Why is this so??
Well, it is quite simply a matter of ‘divided attention’ or ‘lack of concentration’. When you are listening to a radio programme or listening to music while driving , the element of distraction is only minimal and you can easily shut out the music or other programme from your mind to concentrate on your driving, but with the mobile phone, you tend to concentrate fully on what you are saying or hearing to the extent that you can quite easily forget that you are in control of a motor vehicle and end up causing an accident.
For example, the other day I was sitting in my car which was parked along Wilkinson Road at a time when the traffic was busy, and the cars and other vehicles were moving in the usual stop; start; stop; start manner. I noticed a rather young looking lady at the wheel of a brand-new Jeep driving with one hand and holding a mobile phone with the other hand to her right ear. Although the windows were all wound-up you could tell that she was in animated conversation on her mobile phone, leaving the steering wheel ever so often and gesticulating with the hand she was supposed to be driving with. Not surprisingly the traffic ahead of her moved and she did not realise that, being engrossed in her mobile phone conversation. The cars behind her sounded their horns impatiently and all of a sudden the Jeep shot forward and straight into the back of another Jeep in front of her. Obviously she had stepped on the accelerator in response to the hooting behind her, but because her attention was divided she did not realise the preceding vehicle was so close. [Divided Attention” – “Lack of concentration”.]
Fortunately, there was no injury to anyone, as in the several cases cited in the programme “From The World’s Press”, but there was a lot of shouting and screaming. I have no doubt that if the young lady had not been engrossed with whatever she had been saying on the mobile phone, the accident would not have happened at all.
I have also seen Poda-Poda drivers carrying upto 20 Passengers chatting animatedly on their mobile phones, driving with one hand, and putting the lives of their passengers and other road users at risk. I have even seen a Road Transport Bus Driver driving a great big bus with God knows how many passengers, talking on a mobile phone and driving with one hand. What is even worse I have seen OKADA Riders using one hand to control their bikes and talking into a mobile phone held in the other hand. All this is just madness and a danger to lives and property, and it is time to put a stop to this madness.
In 2007, The Road Traffic Act No.5 of 2007 was passed into law, and that act dealt with a lot of issues dealing with road safety, including drinking while driving, Seat belts, Wearing of crash helmets, etc, but nothing was said about mobile phones. – A Golden Opportunity missed!
I THEREFORE RECOMMEND to the Government that the Road Traffic Act No.5 of 2007 be urgently amended, by the addition to Part X – Principal Road Safety Provisions – of a provision absolutely prohibiting the use of a MOBILE PHONE while driving any Motor vehicle, Motorcycle or Bicycle in any part of the Country. Penalties could include the confiscation of the Mobile Phone; suspension of the culprit’s driving licence and of course fines to be paid within 24 hours. I sincerely hope that this suggestion / recommendation will be taken very seriously and passed into Law soonest. And of course if and when it is passed into law, we may need to do something about our Traffic Police and Traffic Wardens to make sure it is enforced strictly. WHAT DO YOU THINK, SIERRA LEONEANS?
J. B. JENKINS-JOHNSTON ESQ.
J. B. Jenkins-Johnston Esq. – Legal Practitioner.