Thursday 19 April 2012

Social Engagement: The menace of texting distractions

The distraction of mobile communication
I will be the first to say that to my observation mobile phones have become a major social distraction that users of such devices are somewhat oblivious of.
Too many times, I have watched people on a phone call or sending a text message walk ahead of me but never in a straight line, though they think they are fully aware of their surroundings, they may not walk into pillars and rarely into people just because others are more aware and take consideration of others.
I have found myself barking at cyclists to put their phones away when riding in Amsterdam because at the speeds they are moving they rarely are able to anticipate sudden changes in their pathways either in terms of on-coming traffic or those who intend to overtake them – you can just tell from about 20 metres who is not looking ahead of themselves.
Control and consideration
When it comes to driving cars the hubris of those who take calls without consideration to stop and attend to that distraction cannot find expression, we now have instances of people who have lost their lives in accidents for engaging in such stupidity.
I will contend that sending text messages is definitely more distracting than just being on a phone conversation but both are serious distractions that endanger all in the proximity of the offender.
When I was in India, I thought I had seen the worst abuse of phone usage when in control of a vehicle because the culprit was reversing his car round a bend on a busy road whilst on his mobile phone – I stood my head in wonderment and resigned perplexity as I wondered aloud how that behavior was ever possible.
This is just beyond the pale
However, one must never eliminate the prospect of surprise on the matters of social interaction that entails complete distraction endangering life as those concerned despite their experience so soon forget their core responsibilities and duties.
A flight that was about to land did not have its landing gear down because the pilot was busy in the social interaction of texting. Now, I thought we were at least in Europe told to switch off all transmitting devices during flights because they might interfere with flight avionics. There is no particular engineering science that supports this claim but in the remotest cases there might well be some interference.
I am however glad that we do not have to endure the propinquity of business types permanently on their mobile phones throughout the flight striking deals and feeling so self-important as if any of us care if there are making billions or begging for farthings – the time of the flight is just one of those last bastions of peace away from everyday distractions that we face elsewhere.
No sanction is high enough
To then read that the pilot was texting at the one of the most critical times of a flight that was in descent, with all the alarms at full volume and yet they left it so late that the approach had to be aborted at 392 feet (119.48m) is the height of criminal irresponsibility that should have sanctions as serious as both captain with 13,000 flying hours and 1st Officer with 4,000 flying hours lose their licenses.
I think this illustrates in stark terms the barely averted disaster that could have had a 220-passenger aircraft plunge into the ground due to what many think is inconsequential and what they think they can comfortably do multitasking motion either ambulatory or in control of a vehicle with being partly pre-occupied with a phone.
It goes without saying that you should stop to use a mobile phone and basically if you are in control of an aircraft you must never have your mobile phone on except where communication systems on the plane necessary for its safe operation have failed when communicating in relation to the primary task of operating the aircraft.

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