Texting while driving has become a global killer, according to a special envoy to the United Nations – and governments across the world are simply not giving enough attention to the dangers of distracted drivers on the road.
This is according the a special UN envoy for road safety, which noted that over 13 million people – including 2 million children – lost their lives in road crashes in the past decade, leaving an additional 500 million people injured.
The UN said that 1.25 million people are killed, and 50 million injured, in accidents each year.
“Texting while driving is a global killer – one that disproportionately affects our young people,” the envoy said.
“(This is) particularly urgent, because in virtually every one of our countries, there simply is not sufficient recognition of the dangers of driving while texting, calling, or otherwise not paying full attention on the road.”
The US Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data estimates that up to 27% of fatal crashes involving drivers under 30 involve distraction.
Notably. Africa has the highest motor vehicle fatality rate worldwide, with Europe having the lowest, the UN said. Half of road deaths worldwide involve pedestrians, motorcyclists or bicyclists.
According to the World Health Organisation’s Global Status report on road safety for 2015, Africa experiences 26 deaths per 100,000 people – the highest in the world.
South Africa’s road death rate is at 25 deaths per 100,000 people, the WHO said, considerably higher than the world average of 17.5 and more than double the European average of 9.3.
The majority of road-deaths in South Africa are attributed to drunk-driving, where the country has the highest percentage of alcohol-related road deaths than any other country in the world. As many as 58% of South African road deaths can be attributed to alcohol consumption.
However, drunk driving and distracted driving are not mutually exclusive, and are often fatal when combined.
In South Africa, over 25% of road accidents can be attributed to cellphone use.
Texting while driving is an illegal practice in South Africa, though it is rarely enforced. Almost half of South African motorists have admitted to taking a call or sending a text message while driving in the country (Ipsos poll).
The City of Cape Town is one of the main municipalities which have taken a firm stance on the practice, having launched a programme in 2012 to impound the phones of people caught using them while driving.
As at 2015, the programme had confiscated almost 10,000 cellphones.
Common excuses given for using mobile devices while driving include drivers phoning home to let their loved ones know they are running late and drivers trying to complete last-minute business deals or answer office queries after they have physically left the workplace.