Year of 1966 saw 2 major changes in United Kingdom. First change was England team won Football (soccer) World Cup on home soil when Sir Geoff Hurst scored a hattrick in final. The second change was British parliament passed law pertaining to Drunk Driving. This road safety act limited alcohol level in blood at 0.08. In last 50 odd years, almost every country in the world has their own version of DUI laws. This law has helped reduce DUI related accidents, injuries and/or deaths. In last 35 odd years, there has been 80% reduction in DUI related accidents.

Along with strong laws, Governments world over worked with various policy advocates and alcohol manufactures worked on “responsibility” campaign. This requires Alcohol manufactures to add slogans like “Drink Responsibly” or “Don’t Drink and Drive” and few others. This has also helped and played its part. In Hyderabad, there are couple of restaurants which offer unique valet services to their patrons if they have consumed alcohol. The valet drives your car and drops you at your home.

According to stats published by , following are top 3 reasons of road accidents in US –

  • Distracted Driving
  • Speeding
  • DUI

It’s not a surprise that Distracted Driving is occupying top spot. Millennials like me who have a very short attention span get distracted very easily. There are variety of sources for this distraction. Common one being Cell Phones. Calling or Texting (for sake simplicity this term is being used to indicate text messaging, or social media post or email etc. where user has to type text) while driving is now one of the leading causes of road accidents. In 2017, US saw 1.6 Million road accidents due to cell phone usage. This represents 25% of overall road accidents. Texting while driving is 6 times more likely to cause a road accident than DUI.

One interesting thing about cell phone usage on while (literally) on the road is, you don’t have to be behind wheel to cause an accident. If pedestrians are crossing road while glued to their cell phone screens, they are likely to cause an accident as well. There have been far too many cases where drivers had slammed the brakes because of pedestrian glued to cell phone didn’t look around and could have been run over. There is enough data available to make case for ban on texting while driving and walking on the streets. Phone calls while driving is topic of debate. My personal opinion is to ban handheld phone calls while driving. Phone calls with headphone / headsets or built in car Bluetooth are probably okay as driver’s hands are not tied up (disclaimer I often take calls by linking phone to car’s Bluetooth system).

In light of the stats and available data, one has to wonder if alcohol companies have got a bad name when it comes to road accidents. For example, if drunk driver causes accident, alcohol companies immediately get blamed. However, if an accident is caused due to texting on the road, cell phone companies don’t seem to attract as much criticism.  If pedestrian who is glued to cell phone screen causes a road accident, more likely or not vehicle driver gets hold accountable rather than pedestrian. Similarly; if speeding driver causes an accident, nobody blames car companies.

In light of texting related accidents, I think time has arrived to amend road safety laws. Punishment for texting related accident needs to be made harsher and may brought on par with DUI related accidents (if not done already). Cell Phone and Text app makers must be asked to add disclaimers on their products similar to Alcohol makers about “Drive Responsibly” and “no texting while walking / driving”. It’s just a matter of time when insurance industry if going to pick this up. Drivers who text while driving are likely to see their insurance premiums go up. Hopefully extra premiums and severe punishments would deter texting while literally on the road….

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