Saying no to driving and dialling

Netcare hospitals take the lead in making vehicles cellphone-free zones

Wednesday, October 16 2013

The real impact of using a cellphone while driving a car is difficult to ascertain, but studies suggest that drivers using mobile phones are approximately four times more likely to be involved in a vehicle collision.

This worrying statistic prompted Netcare Milpark and Netcare Union hospitals to introduce a campaign, initially aimed at hospital personnel including administrative staff, hospital management and nursing professionals, about the dangers of losing concentration, even for a split second, to use a phone while driving.

“Healthcare workers can act as valuable role models for the public, however, they too are only human and should from time to time be reminded of certain dangerous activities that may result in accidents and serious injury, including using a cellphone when driving. As from World Trauma Day on 17 October, we are appealing to employees and management of the two hospitals to actively participate in the Cellphone-free Zone Challenge, which will initially run until 24 October,” says Mande Toubkin, Netcare’s general manager emergency, trauma, transplant and corporate social investment. “Everyone, including senior management, will sign a pledge to refrain from using their mobile phones while driving for these seven days. We view this week-long campaign as a starting point. Our intention is to firmly and irrevocably entrench this behaviour among staff and to then roll it out to the public”

Rene Grobler, trauma programme manager at Netcare Milpark Hospital, explains that driving while using your cellphone leads to distracted driving, a form of cognitive distraction. Distracted driving, one of the primary causes of vehicle accidents, can be defined as operating a motor vehicle while simultaneously focusing one’s attention elsewhere. “Using your mobile phone when you are behind the steering wheel means longer reaction times, shorter following distances, an impaired ability to keep in the correct lane and an overall reduction in awareness of the driving situation,” Grobler says.

Grobler adds that while many people believe that driving with a hands-free kit is safe, research has shown otherwise. “The likelihood of having an accident while using a handheld device is the same as using a cellphone in a vehicle fitted with a hands-free kit. This suggests that it is the cognitive distraction that results from being involved in a conversation on a cellphone that impacts on driving behaviour and therefore crash risk. This is why we are following a motto of ‘park it (your phone) and zip it’ during this challenge, by giving each participant a zipper bag to store their phone so they are not easily tempted to use their cellphones while driving,” says Grobler.

This initiative is part of the Trauma Injury Prevention (TIP) programme launched in April this year. TIP was established to educate the general public about precautionary measures they can take to reduce the risk of trauma incidents that may result in serious injury. These include wearing helmets when riding bikes, wearing seatbelts when in a car, learning first aid and practising water safety.

Netcare Milpark and Netcare Union hospitals are the only hospitals in South Africa with level 1 trauma centres accredited by the Trauma Society of South Africa. “Being a level 1 trauma centre means we are equipped to clinically manage patients who are severely injured, from the time of their arrival until such time as they enter rehabilitation. Research has shown that the chances of a patient’s survival increase if they are taken to a level 1 trauma centre. Part of our responsibility as such accredited centres is a commitment to educate the communities that we serve on injury prevention. We hope this week-long initiative will raise public awareness about the dangers of driving and dialling, and that it inspires others to take up the challenge of making their cars cellphone-free zones,” concludes Toubkin.



Issued by : Martina Nicholson Associates (MNA) on behalf of Netcare
Contact : Martina Nicholson, Sarah Beswick or Graeme Swinney
Telephone : (011) 469 3016
Email :,, or gr