Textalysers and Tantrums

by ThisIsShe|Mags

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Begrudgingly, I admit to being a serial texter while driving, and I’ve had my fair share of text-n-drive related moments of WTF!? WATCH WHERE YOU ARE GOING… which leads to the good ol’ Facebook Status Update of ‘PEOPLE ARE SUCH SHIT DRIVERS! WAS ALMOST IN ACCIDENT BECAUSE OF STUPID DRIVERS’.

Yes, angry rants and grammar do not make-out behind the art block… having said that, the editing process is a lot like a one-night-stand – the experience is far better for the other person when it’s straight to the point. Though I’ve never posted a car rant on social media there’s plenty of personal fuckeries to choose from. I digress…

Morally I know the physical ramifications of texting while driving – possible broken bones, a totaled car, a disposed sense of self due to foolishness, but the reality is, these ramifications go beyond the immediate future. Australia is one of the leading countries for road-related accidents and injuries. A clever PR person might say Australians are ‘adventurous’, instead of ‘impatient’. ‘Social’ instead of ‘distracted’ – either or, it’s a case of semantics.

Victoria Police are considering the implementation of TEXTALYSERs – a new technology that allows authorities to check whether drivers are using a mobile while driving. Reports of this technology surfaced in 2014 at the product launch in New York. Subsequently NY Police authorities began pushing legislation for the use of these new TEXTALYSERs in precincts. Having researched the obvious benefits, Victorian police strongly believe Australia needs this new method more than ever.

According to CarAdvice.com.au; ‘data provided by Victoria Police shows that more than 34,000 infringement notices were issued last year to distracted drivers using mobile phones behind the wheel. A recent study quoted by Queensland’s Centre for Accident Research and Road Safety (CARRS-Q) claims that just having a conversation on the phone while driving quadruples the chances of having an accident.’

“We are interested in anything that could support us in our road to zero lives lost on Victorian roads… (and) constantly assessing technologies from all over the world to advance our road policing efforts” said Acting Superintendent Stuart McGregor. “It’s still alarming to see that more than 34,000 people think it’s okay to put the lives of others at risk just to check their phones [while driving].”

“The law states that a driver is ‘Negligent’ when he or she did not exercise the right amount of care and attention which would be reasonably expected from a driver in the particular circumstances. A simple example is when a driver failed to pay sufficient attention to the road at the time or failed to comply to roads rules and an accident took place.” 

Being a reformed ‘shit driver’ or as I like to call it – ‘a very involved driver; involved in myself and whatever I’m strumming to’ (the myth about writers being tortured artists is real) – I know first hand the damage negligent driving can cause. Let me be CLEAR, I have never killed or seriously injured anyone on the road or otherwise. I’ve been in three car incidents. One with my sister from another mister Samantha, which I, still to this day, have guilt over even though the fault did not rest solely on myself. The guy was a serial accidental-er – he had walked in front of a tram six weeks prior because he was looking down at his phone – which is what happened with me. Except it was not on a footpath, it was on a merging motorway lane in peak hour. It only takes a moment.

The second was by myself; a motorbike was behind me as I merged lanes in peak-hour traffic, once again. In his attempt to avoid the waiting game like us normal folk with four-wheels, sped between traffic and collided with the back of my Barina as I was merging. He came out unscathed – thank God, but it scared the shit out of me. Though I still hold my innocence, to a certain extent, when someone is hurt the blame game is irrelevant; at least until insurance gets involved.

It was then I truly understood the reality of driving: your own ass is not the only thing you have to watch, but everyone else on the roads ass as well. 

And lastly, a humbling experience I will never forget, due to road rage. Long story short a car illegally came into my lane after a turn. Naturally I was outraged and I flipped him off. Big mistake. He tailed me and as he rolled down his window to say something I hit into the car in front of me. Apparently the guy in front of him had pushed the breaks abruptly because he changed his mind. Needless to say the airbags went off and I came home looking like Mohammad Ali, if he had lip injections right after a heavyweight fight. Did I mention I had just lost my license for 3 months – I became a master at the Statutory Declaration – AND I was going through a difficult breakup. I remember wishing, after my brother had come to my rescue, I had changed my mind. Kept calm. Kept safe. Ego and impatience will enable you to do some foolish things *cheeky sigh of resign* #Sidenote: I still remember the disappointment in my loved one’s voices: You lost your license? That should have never happened. You were in a car accident? Didn’t you just lose your license for 3 months? Well, you can be a bit reckless at times… Life has a wonderful way of humbling us. Now I have two ‘battle scars’ on my chest (reminds me of rapper Eve’s tiger paws) from the airbag pressure. A possible permanent reminder… What a sobering experience to the effects of our actions.

The Victorian police are determined, reports say, to test any new technology useful in bringing the state’s road tolls down to zero. A lofty goal? No, but the outcome rests in the hands of the driver – literally. Victorian Police Superintendent McGregor emphasized the importance of younger drivers (particularly if on L’s and P’s) focusing their attention on driving safely and sensibly, instead of texting friends through traffic.

“Obviously that age group is already of particular concern to us, purely due to their inexperience on the roads… When you’re learning how to drive or driving on your own for the first time, it is essential to devote your full attention to the task at hand. Driving is a serious task and should be treated as such. You’re in charge of more than a tonne of metal and if you divert your attention for even a split second; it could have fatal consequences. No text message or social media update is more important than getting to your destination safely,” McGregor added.

Suffice to say, we can’t be in two places at once and so too we can’t be watching the rear-view mirror, side mirror, and front mirrors while texting. Plenty do but, speaking from experience in driving kerfuffles, it isn’t worth it. The shame you feel – whether in the wrong or not, – the money spent, the inconveniences of borrowing family and friends cars, hitching rides to normally easy peasy places. The premiums go up – and you just know every time NRMA is on the phone there will be judgmental disappointment when your file is opened. Passive aggressive, customer service shade. Not fun, even if you are ‘lucky to be with Amy’.

A representative of the Victorian Automotive Chamber of Commerce (VACC), publicly announced their support of whatever new methods Police are investigating to make public roads safer.

“[The] VACC believes strongly in making commuting on public roads as safe as possible. Like with drink-driving, as soon as society can make activities like texting while driving unacceptable, the better off all road users will be. If people are going to make phone calls they should use approved hands-free devices. Technology solutions such as the breathalysers have been used with great success by police forces across the country. The ‘textalyser’ may be the next vanguard in road safety in Australia,” said by David Dowsey, spokesperson for the VACC.

There has been no confirmation of local installation of the TEXTALYSER but Victoria Police have resolved to investigate the devices’ potential. No life should be taken away because of carelessness. Hopefully this system will come onto our shores in the next 12 months. So called shitty drivers like myself will definitely benefit from new and effective technology like the Textalyser. But it isn’t just about preventative measures; educational videos, road safety workshops and advertisements showcasing the impracticality and selfishness of using a mobile while driving, regardless of age and experience, are needed also. We can ALL afford to be patient and alert as we travel together through this long winding road called life. As my dad always says; “wherever you are going; you will get there. Don’t rush.” #BestDadEver.

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This writer was afraid to share these stories because she was ashamed of being judged for stupid behaviour. Through writing this, I feel these experiences were not in vain or just a personal life lesson. Sharing enables others to grow too. This writer has resolved to NOT text while driving… I also reserve the right to get on my high horse and behave like a reformed smoker (just for the next two sentences, anyway); “You need to quit it. If not for yourself, for others you don’t know are affected.” Okay, this ‘positive take-away’ is done…

But in all seriousness:

DON’T DRIVE AND TEXT. DRIVE AND SING.  


This article was written by Margretta Sowah; a freelance writer and Fashion Marketer based in Sydney. All opinions expressed are her own. She cannot be held liable for bad taste. She also likes to spin yarn from time to time. Read more at: Blaire Magazine

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