According to the Bahama Journal on January 12, 2019, sixty-nine persons lost their lives in traffic fatalities. This number does not reflect serious injuries, minor injuries, hit and run accidents, and damages to public property, private property, and vehicles. (the Bahamas, 2017) They enable accessible communication at any time and anywhere. However, driving should not be one of the times for mobile communication. Texting while driving has become popular, particularly in the Bahamas. Since the Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) and Aliv provide data on the go, the ability to contact their loved ones and friends is present. Teenagers are not the only suspects of these grave habits; adults are guilty as well. In fact, on January 18, 2018, the Nassau Guardians report that ten persons involved in traffic fatalities fall between 18 and 25; eight between 36 and 45; eight between 46 and 55; another seven, 66 and over; four, 17 and under; and two between 56 and 65. (Jones, 2018) Therefore, it is evident that each age category is responsible for the mishaps on the road. Not only are drivers affected, but pedestrians are sadly, but often hit due to texting while driving. To reduce these mishaps, in 2019, the Road Traffic Act was implemented to find those drivers who found texting. It is not as effective as law enforcers would hope. However, smartphone applications such as Cell Control, DriveMode, and bSafe Mobile exists to prevent distractions while driving. Such apps can silence calls and text messages. To ensure that each driver practices safety while driving, during the licensing process, inspectors at the Road Traffic Department can ensure that each driver has a smartphone driving safety app and cell phone car holders as texting while driving creates a visual distraction for the driver, physical driver distraction, and can lead to pain, distress, and death amongst drivers and pedestrians.
One reason that inspectors should ensure that smartphone driving safety app and cell phone car holders should be placed in cars is texting while driving creates a visual distraction for the driver. Often, drivers tend to take their eyes off of the road for reading and typing messages. This can lead to their vehicle losing control As mentioned earlier, there is the ease of access to the Internet and affordable phone packages. This nourishes the demand to always relate to our loved ones. In fact, according to Steven J. Seiler, studies showed that there was a strong need to have readily available cellphone usage. (Seiler, 2015) Furthermore, Seiler says that this strong desire for cellphone usage has trickled down into driving practices. There is a disregard for driving safety and more desire for communicating with others. (Seiler, 2015) In addition to that, Seiler also says that texting while driving has become a norm amongst old and young persons. What once was inappropriate, is now deemed acceptable. (Seiler, 2015) Although this is deemed as acceptable, five seconds are enough to take away one’s attention from the street for texting while driving. (Sivek, 1996) Studies show that 90% of all the information used in driving is visual. (Sivek, 1996) If this attention is divided for even five seconds, anything can happen; whether it be a traffic fatality, a hit pedestrian, or damages to a car. Hence, the need for smartphone driving safety app and cell phone car holders in cars. The inspection to ensure that these measures are in place should occur once a year, simultaneously as the car is being inspected for working brake lights, windshield wipers, and signals, as it is equally important. These cell phone car holders allow for use of mobile without holding the phone. The argument exists that those using cell phone car holders tend to not see all the information sent in the text. In fact, the research shows that drivers using cell phones look but fail to see up to 50 % of the information in their driving environment. As humans enjoy being connected to what is going on, this might push the driver to want to look at the text again; therefore, taking away more visuals off the road. It is for this reason that drivers should download smartphone applications on their cell phones. Some examples are smartphone applications are DriveMode and Cell Control. According to Khaled Shabaan, DriveMode is a free application that helps to reduce cellular distractions by automatically replies to any incoming text messages; silences audio tones for texts, emails, and phone calls; and blocks web browsing and outgoing phone calls. (Shaaban, 2019) Some may argue that a downside of the app is that the driver must enable it every time before driving. (Shaaban, 2019)According to Yusuke Hayashi, humans tend to act impulsively, especially when making a choice of an immediate yet less favorable outcome over a delayed yet more favorable outcome. As it relates to texting while driving, humans can be torn between an immediate reward such as being connected with loved ones, but risking their lives or the lives of others while doing so. (Hayashi, 2019) Another example is Cellcontrol. This app uses Bluetooth-enabled technology in the vehicle to detect when the vehicle is moving and prevents distracted driving by disabling mobile phones. Other applications promote hands-free usage as a solution. (Shaaban, 2019) It can be argued, according to Amith Khandakar and the other authors, that the app may not adapt to every car present in the Bahamas, as there are different models and years (Khandakar, 2019). It can also be argued that not everyone is technologically savvy to sustain these apps. To counterargue these points, those cars that are not equipped should possess a cell phone car holder to fill the absence for the smartphone driving safety app. (Khandakar, 2019) Also, for those that are not technologically savvy, every time an inspector inspects the car, they should provide guidance on using the app and ensure that the app is able to work on the phone and in the car. Ensuring that phone holders and smartphone driving safety apps are grounded in the lives of Bahamian drivers can help to reduce texting while driving.
Another reason why inspectors should ensure that smartphone driving safety app and cell phone car holders should be placed in cars is due to the fact that texting while driving creates physical driver distraction. It is difficult for drivers to manage to hold the phone and drive the car simultaneously. Different features and designs of cell phones can affect the driving performance of texters. Most mobile phones have touch screen keyboards, but there are still some phones that have a physical keyboard. Studies have shown that persons with touch screen smartphones tend to look at their phones more than those users of a physical keyboard. (He, Choi, & Ellis, 2014) Also, the cellphone becomes a physical distraction while at the red light. This leads to reduced vision to see when the light turns green and causes speeding to quickly drive before the light turns red again. It also creates conflict and confusion on the road. In fact, the Road Traffic Act 2019 “criminalizes” the use of phones while driving. As mentioned earlier, there are persons that would try to quote “not impeding traffic” to make their cellphone use at the red lights acceptable. However, traffic will be impeded because drivers tend to invest their time while texting and do not gauge the time needed to text versus the timing of the light. The government also placed stipulations that states “A person failing to adhere to these provisions would be liable to a fine not exceeding $1,000”, according to the amendment, however “Mr. Wells told The Tribune yesterday this would be reduced to $500”. (The Road Traffic Act, 2019) As this is a good law, it cannot be monitored as police officers are not on the road all the time, and if they are, they are either not paying attention or proceeding to another matter. While this law is in place, more needs to be done to reduce traffic fatalities, pedestrian and car accidents. This can be done by ensuring that each car has a hand-free device and each driver has a smartphone driving safety app. This can be monitored by inspection during licensing at the Road Traffic Department. With the assistance of car cell phone holders, traffic fatalities can be reduced.
Finally, mandatory inspections to ensure that smartphone driving safety app and cell phone car holders are present to help reduce drivers drifting into other lanes. According to the Arrive Alive campaign, texters tend to wander across the lane while driving. (Texting and Distracted Driving, n.d.) Pedestrians can be placed at risk to be hit. Those crossing by the red light and crosswalks can be unseen. Also, texters put other drivers at risk. When the driver moves out of the lane inappropriately, it forces other drivers to do the same. This can increase the chances of accidents. Therefore, it is for this reason that texting and driving should be curved by the use of smartphone driving safety apps such as Cell Control and bSafe Mobile.
Sadly, the traffic fatality statistics of the Bahamas continue to climb annually. This led to the Government of the Bahamas enforcing the Road Traffic Act in 2019. Reporter Krishna Russell stated that Road “traffic accidents are now the 13th highest cause of death in the country and without legislative changes, the government believes this will continue.” (Russell, 2019) Furthermore, Russell says “According to National Security Minister Marvin Dames, there were 63 traffic fatalities last year which represented a 29% increase from 2017”. (Russell, 2019) He said “unfortunately, resulting from those 63 accidents were the deaths of 69 victims, reflecting a 28% increase from .” (Russell, 2019)
In conclusion, texting while driving has many negative consequences. Texting while driving creates a visual distraction for the driver, as well as leads to physical driver distraction. In addition, drivers that text tends to drift out of their lanes, creating risks for pedestrians and other drivers. Thus, texting while driving is harmful to humans, especially in the Bahamas. The Road Traffic Act 2019 will assist in curving this bad habit that we have developed. While this law is in place, more needs to be done to reduce traffic fatalities, pedestrian and car accidents. This can be done by ensuring that each car has a hand-free device and each driver has a smartphone driving safety app. This can be monitored by inspection during licensing at the Road Traffic Department.