Our young blogger Charlotte writes about the recklessness of using your phone while driving.
In January this year, we were presented with one of those curious statistics which is simultaneously reassuring and frightening: during a week’s concentrated effort by police to crack down on drivers’ mobile phone usage, nearly 8,000 drivers were caught. I say this because it is certainly comforting to know that these people are being caught, and that society is beginning to realise how serious a crime this seemingly trivial act is. But 8,000 in a week? I shudder to think who is being let loose on our roads with their phones during a typical week when the police are not investing deliberate time and effort into catching them.
Until a few years ago, I used to cringe whenever my dad would honk the horn furiously and bellow out of the window at drivers using their phones. I was embarrassed that he made such a big deal out of it, when my mum would just shake their head at them a bit and drive on. At least they’re looking at the road, I thought. What does it matter if they’ve got a phone clamped to their ear? But now, as I am currently learning to drive, it is something which causes me no end of terror. Whenever I’m driving down a main road and passing junctions on each side, I always panic and slow down, in case some unwary idiot checking selfies against the steering wheel flies out in front of me. “You have priority, they’ll wait for you,” my instructor always assures me.
What if they don’t, though? What if they’re looking at their phone, pull out in front of me and become a killer because they were scrolling through what their sister was having for dinner?
For me, it takes a certain kind of unpleasantness and detachment to even consider using your phone while driving. Last year, we were forced to watch the consequences of phone usage while driving when lorry driver Tomasz Kroker ploughed into stationary cars on the A34 in Berkshire, killing four people. Kroker had been staring at his phone, scrolling through music, for nearly one kilometre before he finally glanced at the road again, only to find himself feet away from stationary traffic and travelling at 50mph. To think that this person actually cared more about selecting his music than human life is frightening and says a lot about what technology is doing to society, because Kroker is far from alone.
Of course, nobody would admit it away from the motorway. Speak to anyone face-to-face and ask them: “What’s more important – technology or human life?” and they’d argue earnestly in favour of the latter. But put them behind the wheel and text them a picture of your cat, and they suddenly have a life on their hands. And what for? For the sake of saving a streak on Snapchat, or a cat which looks hilariously like Donald Trump?
I’ve tried to argue intelligently in favour of my point of view, but the one argument that I keep coming back to, the one thing it all seems to boil down to is this: just don’t do it. Nothing is so important that you have to risk your life and the lives of everyone around you. If you can’t resist the ping of an incoming message, put your phone on silent. Bury it in the glove compartment. Put it in the furthest corner of the boot and surround it with shoes and bags and rubbish so that you won’t be tempted into making an effort to unearth it. Do whatever you need to do. But remember this: one human life does not equate to the number of pixels in a selfie.