Ohio senator recently attended a Zoom call while driving. Here's what it reveals about 'distracted driving' awareness

New Delhi, IndiaEdited By: Gravitas deskUpdated: May 12, 2021, 10:58 AM IST
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Self-driving car Uber. Photograph:(Reuters)

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Uber’s website claims that distracted driving accounts for 26 per cent of fatalities on the road

When you’re at the driver seat and distracted, lives of many people are jeopardised. Cab drivers and vehicle owners alike are guilty of scrolling social media, talking on the phone, and attending work meetings while driving.

A lawmaker from Ohio, United States, recently participated in a government meeting while driving. Senator Andrew Brenner could be seen joining the call from his car. A couple of minutes into the meeting, the senator switches to a virtual background. As a result, he is seen sitting at a fake office, with a seatbelt on.

It would have been funny, had it not been so dangerously careless.

This happened on a day when the state of Ohio introduced a “Distracted Driving Bill” which bans writing, sending or reading texts while driving. In addition, it also bans taking photos, livestreaming and using other applications while driving. Looking at videos is also banned. The senator exemplified all that is wrong with distracted drivers.

In the age of GPS navigation, can we really drive without looking at our phones?

From cab drivers to food delivery executives, everyone uses GPS and maps are integral to the service they offer. How will they deliver your parcel if they can't find your address? It's true that while looking at the map, a text or two are often opened, emojis are exchanged, and voice notes are shared. But how do we stop it? Laws have been made, but have they made driving safe?

Last year, India implemented its new Motor Vehicles Act. Under it, a driver is allowed to use his or her phone only for navigation. Talking on the phone while driving can attract fines up to 5,000 rupees and Indian states are allowed to multiply the penalty up to 10 times.

In the UK, the Road Safety Code says that holding a phone while driving is illegal. You can use a phone only when you’re parked and flouting these rules may result in a penalty of up to 2,500 pounds. You can also be taken to court.

A headline from German Autolabs says the following - “Distracted driving is getting worse and legislation isn't working”. Drivers using mobile phones are nearly four times more likely to be involved in a crash. In 2019, over 3,000 people died because of distracted driving in the US alone.

Instead of creating awareness about road safety, lawmakers today are leading by example when it comes to risking road safety.

Andrew Brenner, the US Senator, said the following when he was asked about attending a government meeting while driving.  “I’ve actually been on other calls, numerous calls, while driving”.

“I had two meeting that were back to back that were in separate location,” he added.

There is absolutely no excuse for driving while attending a meeting from a fake virtual office and being totally unapologetic about it.

Uber’s website claims that distracting driving accounts for 26 per cent of fatalities on the road. The company should share this data with its drivers and create awareness among them. They should also equip employees with navigation system so that they avoid using their phones for map. Replying to texts can wait, phone calls can be made later. Work calls are not about life and death, but distracted driving is.