The range of
information and options that is now being given to motorised
traffic has increased exponentially and includes more data on
engine performance and also in steering controls that allows the
driver to change the display on the electronic dashboard
These controls also
allow the driver to tune in to radio, change programmes and
select the type of music and entertainment source they require.
We also have basic
motorcycles in Kenya working as boda bodas that have been fitted
with a lot of comfort features which also require the attention
of the rider.
They have flashing
light controls and in bike entertainment systems (for all they
are worth) in addition to the normal controls that the rider has
to attend to both by hand and foot.
All this means that
the driver needs to be very alert and mentally agile to be able
to drive effectively and safely.
However, by far the
biggest new hazard is the mobile phone and especially the smart
phone. During the advent of the use of mobile phones, in
addition to speaking on the phone whilst walking or driving,
another hazard presented by mobile phones was that of texting or
This meant that in
addition to the mind and hands being engaged which is generally
the case when speaking on the phone (there are hands free
versions), ones eyes would also be engaged.
This meant that one
would not be looking where they are going.
Mitigation for voice
use quickly came on board with earphones and other hands free
devices being invented.
This freed people’s
hands and they could then multitask.
It created what were
considered comical scenes then as one would see drivers in a
vehicle gesticulating and talking seemingly to themselves but
were in fact engaged with someone else. Proper use of hands free
devices reduced the risk when using mobile phones in motorised
and non-motorised traffic.
However, for texting
it is another matter.
There has not been a
widely available alternative to using the hand whilst texting.
Thus one would
expect that all “sane” people would be careful.
would not stop to text.
They would also not
pull over to the side of the road to type their texts.
People insisted on
composing their text messages whilst on the move – driving,
walking, in meetings, in class – yes everywhere.
improved phones and in addition to texting one could now do a
whole host of other things.
The coming of age of
social media and the massive uptake by the youth and eventually
the “bbc” denizens resulted in the mobile (smart) phone being an
essential and almost ubiquitous item.
People wanted to
stay connected so they put alerts on all their active
connections so that they would know the instant any
communication from social media arrived on their smart device.
This meant that
responses would also be instant.
through Linked-in, Twitter, WhatsApp, Snapchat, Google,
Messenger, Skype, Zoom, Moments, ChatON, and all those many
Apps, people have become very busy doing social media.
The result of all
this is that people are connected to their phones as they go
about their normal business – walking, driving, eating, sitting
on the loo, cooking, talking and so forth.
This connectivity by
Homo sapiens results in risks to both motorised and
I will touch on one
risk and mitigation.
The first, the risk,
was one that happened to me recently.
I had parked on a
slip road to take a phone call.
When I completed my
call, I started to move forward to exit the slip road back to
the main road.
As I started to roll
the car forward I noticed two people who were walking in the
middle of the slip road towards my car.
Both of them were
walking fast but busy looking at their phones and typing.
My car had moved
from the left kerb and into the middle of the road.
The two people did
not notice the change in the position of the car as their eyes
were glued to the phone.
They kept walking
towards my car but focussed on their phone screens.
I stopped the car
rather than hoot at them and scare them out of their skins.
They continued to
walk towards the stationary car and it was loud shouting from a
watchman who was guarding an adjacent building that took their
attention away from the phone.
One of them was able
to stop but the other person’s progress was stopped rudely by
wrapping himself or herself onto my bonnet.
His phone flew out
of his hand and landed on the paved road.
I suspect the screen
must have broken.
The fellow collected
himself with a sheepish grin on his face.
He was good enough
to come round to the driver’s window and apologise for his lack
So as drivers we
will need to develop a sixth sense in terms of recognising
pedestrians, drivers and riders who are on the phone for
It requires that we
develop a defensive attitude towards oncoming phone using
motorised and non-motorised road users.
The most common
indictor is the stooped head pose.
This is an almost
dead give away as to people using phones.
We will next week
look at an innovative solution to the danger of phones users by
using the stooped head pose as the starting point.
As Kachumbari says,
mobile phones are probably the next human conditioning