Monday column: Eye on the phone while driving can cause disaster

Opinion Monday 05/June/2023 08:00 AM
By: Saleh Al-Shaibany
Monday column: Eye on the phone while driving can cause disaster

Someone called me as I was driving during a rush hour. I had to pick up the telephone knowing that it was an offence to talk and drive at the same time. I know I should have used my hands-free earphones but I was careless enough to have misplaced it. Driving with one hand while speeding down the highway is ever so popular these days.

Such dangerous habits are difficult to overcome. In Oman, at least two people die everyday from car accidents and the police solely blame over speeding or cars that are not properly maintained. I bet half of those accidents are caused by drivers like me who find hands-free facilities not too important. While authorities have made enormous efforts to reduce pollutions by introducing environmental friendly gasoline, nobody seems to raise serious questions about appalling record of road accidents. Only last month, an entire family was wiped out from one moment of carelessness. On a recent press conference about road accidents, I was mystified to find out that not one of the half a dozen speakers made a reference to drivers using mobiles while driving. Like seat belts, I think it should be mandatory that all new cars are fitted with hands-free telephone facilities. I know you would say that every driver should be responsible about road safety but such accountability sometime is beyond many people.

Mobile phones, without doubt, have started a new wave of culture that has changed the lives of many people. I might add that they are also responsible of ruining the lives of a few people, too. It was interesting to read in a newspaper that a woman left her husband because the man was paying more attention to his phone than to his marital obligations.

While on a visit to a village near Nizwa,  I found residents there don’t care much about mobile phones. They see them as a nuisance that they can do without. I was also amused to find out that not one of the five shops in that village sold mobile phones. I noticed another interesting thing while I was there. When my mobile phone rang in the busy village marketplace, I thought it startled many residents.

Many annoyed faces looked at me as I talked to the phone and I was forced to cut my conversation short. They thought very little of a small, plastic tool that intruded their peaceful lives. But such places are now threatened to be overcome by the new offending technology. Behind the marketplace, I could see a tall tower rising to the sky. It was a mobile relay station that reminded villagers that they were fighting a losing battle. It is sad that such villages would stop to exist in twenty years as urban life gets closer. Perhaps it was fitting for my phone to ring again as I was leaving the village. Maybe it was to pay tribute to the brave resistance of the residents, I stopped the car to talk to my wife. Since then, I managed to find my misplaced earphones and they now have a permanent place in my car.