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Opinion & Analysis

#ThinkingAllowed: Keep your eyes on the road

I was having dinner at a London restaurant this weekend when I saw something that caught my attention. Actually I should say it’s what I didn’t see that caught my eye! There were about 60 people tucking into their evening meals and not a single one of them was on their mobile phones.

A lot has been said about how mobile phones have taken over our lives and how they are stifling our conversations. Here was a rare moment of peace in what otherwise has seemingly become our obsession with being in touch with everything and everyone, except the people sitting with us.

We see it constantly in the streets, whether it’s Gibraltar, London or any place around the world. It does not have to be a capital city. It’s there too in the back and beyond. People so engrossed with their phone screen that they lose every sense of what’s happening around them.

We look at them all in a judgemental way because when it’s us picking up our mobile phones we always have a good reason to do so, right?

We are not like everyone else we say to ourselves as we too cannot resist the temptation to take a look at who has liked our latest Facebook page or sent us a WhatsApp. In the process, when walking the streets, we bump into other pedestrians or force them to negotiate their way around us like an obstacle course.

But, what happens when our reliance on our phones goes beyond angering a few passers-by?

Recently a lorry driver from Hampshire was sentenced to 10 years in prison for killing three children and a mother in a “devastating” crash on the A34 in August. He was changing the music track on his phone.

Police released footage from the dash-cam in Tomasz Kroker's lorry to raise awareness on the serious consequences of using a mobile phone while driving. They are distressing images. It is a heart breaking story. The driver not only ruined the lives of several families. He also ruined his own and that of his family. One single harmless moment causing a ripple of severe consequences.

It is unfortunate that in Gibraltar, where we pride ourselves in being rather special and caring we need laws that prevent us from using a mobile phone at the wheel.  Laws which we glaringly ignore on a daily basis.

I do not have statistics or scientific evidence but I have seen too many drivers on their phones - even moped riders!

As from next year in the UK drivers caught using handheld mobile phones could be at the receiving end of much tougher penalties. The UK government has said it will double the fines. This means that under the new rules drivers caught will get six points on their licence and face a £200 fine.

Only last month The Gibraltar Parliament paved the way for fixed speed cameras and penalty points for driving offences after unanimously approving an amendment to the Traffic Act.

But, does it all go far enough?

How much is a life worth?

More and more we expect our police officers to have a greater involvement in tackling traffic offences – seat belts, drink driving, speeding etc. and then for the courts to impose their punishment. They do have a vital role to play.

Soon the RGP will embark on the traditional Christmas ‘Don’t Drink and Drive’ Campaign but the full responsibility of any traffic campaign cannot fall exclusively on them. It’s time to take a look in the mirror. Are you doing your bit?

Let’s be honest - most of us have picked up the mobile phone whilst driving to check a message or see who is calling, even though we know it is a dangerously dumb thing to do.

Don’t be the one to cause the accident.

Tomasz Kroker certainly didn’t mean to but his decision not to think before he moved his attention from the steering wheel will haunt him forever.

When we drive our full attention should and must be on the road.

Photo by DM Parody.