Cell phone violations
By: Adel Murad
In one week this month, 3,288 motorists were fined in Riyadh alone for using their cell phones while driving.
This was the third most common violation after speeding and running red lights.
But while other offenses are recognized as serious to safety, use of cell phones and other text gadgets while driving is disregarded by motorists as not serious to their own safety and to others.
It seems that authorities share that view too.
In fact the fines for cell phone use while driving are relegated to a lower category of violations and there is a proposal at the Shoura Council to raise these fines to a range between SR100 and SR300.
These fines may not be enough to deter use of cell phones while driving.
The habit is fed by its common use among drivers.
Many serious accidents and pile ups are caused by oblivious drivers on their cell phones.
Such accidents have caused a radical change of thinking in other countries on the penalties needed to stop this menace.
As of this month, a new law in Ireland fines users of cell phones or texting while driving with a hefty fine of up to 2000 Euros.
Repeat offenders may even be sent to jail.
These fines are equivalent to those of driving while intoxicated.
There is even a tendency in Europe to ban hands-free phones for their distraction of drivers.
Research has shown that a driver takes 20 percent more time to react if he is using a hands-free phone while driving.
There is only one way to reduce the risk of drivers using their cell phones and that is tougher fines, especially for repeat offenders.
The risk of losing a driving license is the ultimate sanction so that drives realize that driving is a privilege and not a right.
The inconvenience of a driver who has to wait to answer his cell phone is such a small price to pay for avoiding major accidents caused by his lack of attention.
Adel Murad is a senior motoring and business journalist, based in London.