Business Maverick

FATAL DISTRACTION

Cellphones dial up the frequency of car crashes in SA

Cellphones dial up the frequency of car crashes in SA
Using a cellphone while driving can have fatal consequences. (Photo: Melissa Mjoen / Unsplash)

Discovery Insure’s research shows that more than 60% of car crash fatalities are influenced by five behaviours — drinking and driving, cellphone usage while driving, excessive speeding, aggressive driving and lack of vehicle care.

According to Statistics SA, about 97.2% of South African households own a cellphone and — inevitably — cellphone distractions now top the list of risky driving behaviours.

Discovery Insure’s CEO, Robert Attwell, said the short-term insurer, which has access to more than 19 billion kilometres of driving data with 500,000 daily trips, had found that although road and vehicle conditions contributed to road fatalities, human factors like driver behaviour played the biggest role. The worst culprit was distraction caused by cellphone use.

Discovery Insure’s research shows that more than 60% of car crash fatalities are influenced by five behaviours — drinking and driving, cellphone usage while driving, excessive speeding, aggressive driving and lack of vehicle care.

The insurer revealed the findings at the launch of the UN Global Campaign for Road Safety, in partnership with JCDecaux, which is part of UN efforts to raise public awareness of life-saving initiatives on the road.

Atwell said a mere 20 seconds on the phone in each trip increased the accident risk by more than 60%. Discovery Insure’s clients who submitted accident claims were 52% more likely to have used their phone than exceeded the speed limit when the accident occurred.

The Road Traffic Management Corporation reported that poor road conditions accounted for 22.2% of motor vehicle fatalities in 2022, which caused a 3.29% or R200-billion loss to the GDP that year.

“Combining these insights with our driving data, we can see that driving behaviour has a bigger impact on road fatalities than road conditions. The data shows that parts of the country with the best roads may have high motor vehicle fatalities because of bad driving behaviour,” Attwell said.

According to Arrive Alive, the laws around the use of cellphones while driving are:

  • You may use a cellphone only if you are not holding it in your hand or with any other part of your body, for example, gripping it with your chin and shoulder or with your knees. In other words, you need to use it with a hands-free unit while the Bluetooth connectivity is enabled.
  • You may not use your cellphone at traffic lights even if your car is stationary. As long as the engine is running you are considered to be driving.
  • You will be breaking the law if you use your cellphone to take photos, browse the internet or interact on social media platforms while driving.

Good roads don’t always equate to fewer accidents

Discovery Insure data reflect that although Limpopo has some of the best roads, drivers in that province exceed the speed limit significantly and Limpopo’s road fatality rate per registered vehicle is the highest in SA. On the other hand, the Western Cape has good road infrastructure and good driver behaviour, which has led to lower road fatalities.

Also emerging from Discovery Insure’s research is that accidents usually occur on the same roads or intersections, with 1% of locations being where 27% of accidents occur. DM

 

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