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Opinions of Saturday, 10 May 2008

Columnist: Adu-Gyamfi, Kwaku

Driver’s Compartment Turns Into Miniature Jamboree Studio?

Let’s mambo in my car!

MY FIRST CAR had cassette player and I thought that was the hippest. I talked about it to everyone as the gadget spoke for itself with its high quality sound. Do we have a car on this planet with cassette deck player? I don’t think so !

If car manufactures had their way they would turn drivers’ compartment into a luxury apartment where everything on earth could be gotten.

Excuse me, is there any effort made by car manufacturers to make the modern driver concentrates on the wheel other than being detracted? Apparently not, because auto mobile manufactures are turning the drivers’ compartment into entertainment center.

The drawback is that these gadgets interfere with one’s ability to drive. And, they create significant detraction to the driver, while violating the sanctity of the passengers’ silence.

If you think over -speeding, wrong over-taking, over-loading, bad roads, poor vehicle condition are responsible for all the road accidents then I am afraid you do not have all the answers. You will soon appreciate the fact that modern -day electronic devices which are installed in most recent manufactured vehicles have a significant role of quick match into grave for drivers and their innocent passengers.

Talking on the cell phone, texting messages, fumbling with car stereo system to find the right station and arguing with spouses while driving are some of the activities that detract the attention of the driver to either take his or her eyes from the road or hands off the steering wheels.

Very soon the problem will be exacerbated by the installation of G.P.S navigation system screens, Portable DVD players and Mp3; all located in the view of the driver and in the rear seats. Most car manufactures are busy equipping new cars with these electronic devices as standard equipment—to make drivers more “comfortable”—to kill and to be killed.

How does the driver navigate or learn to prevent detractions or keep eyes on the road and control the steering wheels when all these gadgets are available to him? Driving is a life skill like cooking but, even very professional drivers’ ability to control the vehicle diminishes once their attention is diverted and detracted; how much less the amateurs?

We all know that driving while engaging in other activities has its deadly consequences. Most traffic accidents are the results of human or mechanical failure or combination of both.

It’s nice to join the high-tech bandwagon but high accident rate, poor road net work, entrenched reckless driving pattern and unnecessary adventurism by some drivers in Ghana make one apprehensive as to whether we can afford to copy blindly. Why are we rushing to embrace every technology being introduced on the market, without considering its effects, application and implications?

The fact is the Ghanaian driver is already engaged in activities that endanger his or her life and those on board. Most of us can hardly manage to tune the car stereo without taking our eyes off the road. So converting our vehicles into miniature jamboree studios will make driving in Ghana risky and dangerous. According to a study conducted by Road Safety advocates in Ghana, about 70 percent of road accidents are caused by driver-detractions and poor judgments. The rest is alcohol consumption, poor road conditions and poor vehicle condition.

Whilst we’re debating this issue the car makers are busy adding electronic devices to their newer models and aggressively making the consumers feel the need to turn their vehicles into living rooms. Don’t be fooled, the safety of the driver and passengers is not their watch word.

In some cases, passengers in the rear seats have access to DVD screens to watch their favorite movies. The driver can still be confused when the passengers argue about which movie to watch or video game to play. So it doesn’t matter where one finds the devices they can equally have negative effect on the drivers’ ability to restrain themselves from engaging in other unsafe things.

I’m not advocating for a ban on the importation of these electronic gadgets in cars, SUV’s and other vehicles. But my appeal is that, there should be some Regulation to moderate their usage and gauge their ramifications in the national health equation. Can we turn the phones off while driving and resist the temptation to engage in other activities other than driving?

In a society where the majority is obsessed with using new electronic gadgets and other toys as status symbols, I’m not sure if making laws to regulate or ban the use of these devices will yield any result. Who is going to enforce the laws, the Police? I don’t have much hope in this arena. This organization is so ill-equipped such that one wonders when the state will stop the lip -service and provide the needed logistics and the motivation to enable it discharge its Constitutional duties to the admiration of the Ghanaian people. But do we really have a choice?

I am scared about how soon our roads will turn into death traps. But, I surely don’t want to say “I told you so.” We were fine without cell phones and text messaging in the drivers’ seats and we will do okay when we turn them off.

I wonder if the “cellphoneholics” and “electronicholics” crowd will give up on their gadgets. Sadly, they’re slowly but surely dying. We keep driving and texting even to the funerals of those who were victims of the same act. Technology is literally costing us arms and legs.

I don’t see any effort by our policy makers to curb this yet. Perhaps they are not even informed. Isn’t road accident part of the health equation? Can the Ghanaian National Road Safety Commission speak up before these gadgets hit our shores?

Kwaku Adu-Gyamfi NJ, USA

*The author is a social commentator and the founder of Adu-Gyamfi Youth empowerment; Scholarship and Apprenticeship foundation, at Asuom, E/R

Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.