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Executive Director of the National Road Safety Council (NRSC), Paula Fletcher, has reiterated her call for Jamaicans to refrain from using their mobile phones while driving on the island’s roadways.

She was speaking on June 5, at the Jamaica Gasoline Retailers Association’s (JGRA) launch of National Road Safety Awareness Month, held in New Kingston.

The theme for National Road Safety Awareness Month 2013 is: ‘Alert today – Alive tomorrow…Distraction kills!’

Mrs. Fletcher noted that the cell phone is an instrument of distraction when used while driving, and as such, becomes “a killer and a cause of injuries”.

“It is a useful communication device, but it is a major cause of distraction for drivers as well as pedestrians. When you use a cell phone when driving, three things happen – you take your hands off the wheel, you take your eyes off the road, and you take your mind off driving,” she said.

The Executive Director pointed out that driving while using a cell phone requires the brain to multitask – a process it cannot do safely while driving. She added that drivers focusing their attention on cell phone conversations, instead of the roadway, have a tendency to “look at” but not “see” up to 50 per cent of the information in their driving environment.

She further noted that studies show that the reaction time of a driver talking on a cell phone, even if it’s hands free, is equivalent to a person driving legally drunk.

Mrs. Fletcher, therefore, called on motorists to be careful on the roadways and to avoid the use of cell phones while driving.

She called on the Government to expedite the revision of the Road Traffic Act, which addresses the use of mobile phones when driving.

For his part, President of the JGRA, Derrick Thompson, said the organisation has decided to focus on distracted drivers this year, in an effort to increase public awareness about the various factors, which contribute to road crashes.

Mr. Thompson informed that 80 per cent of traffic accidents are attributed to distracted drivers.

“Drivers talking on cell phones are 18 per cent slower to react to brake lights. Texting while driving causes a 400 per cent increase in time spent with eyes off the road,” he noted.

The President said pedestrians are also guilty of using the roadway carelessly. He informed that statistics out of the United States show that the number of pedestrians killed or severely injured, while wearing headphones, has tripled in the last six years.

Contact: Athaliah Reynolds-Baker