VCE Outcome 3: Language Analysis Essay

Mobile Concerns by David James

Call me a cynic (you’re a cynic Gus!), but I must suspect the purposes of the article published in Driver magazine. The writer is apparently responding to a call by the Accident Prevention Group (APG) to ban all forms of phone use by drivers in all vehicles. Although I think the arguments presented to be generally quite reasonable and even genuine, the accompanying image and the embedded suggestion of the article suggests another aim to the reader that is suspiciously commercial.

In terms of the arguments presented, the writer pursues and builds a strong position. Their first action is to undermine the validity of the report by Dr Gerard Gray; they question the figure of eight per cent of accidents by emphasising the term “arguably” to describe the application of the findings. The writer further questions if using hand-held and hands-free mobile phones should be considered the same by the study when producing this figure, because the latter surely allow for “full control” of the steering wheel, which is a reasonable distinction. Subsequently, however, they must address the separate concern for “full concentration”, which they dismiss through comparison with other legal and “normal activities” in a vehicle. Mr James has a fair point here, but we must also recognise that such “normal” behaviours can in fact prove dangerous and that a driver must be judicious in their practice. Of course, the answer to their rhetorical question is “No!”: we do not intend to ban talking, drinking or singing from driving. Nevertheless, the writer does not ask us to admit at any time that the action of using even a hands-free phone could in fact place road-users in danger, and must be carefully considered, nor do they describe if the APG did make such considerations in their findings.

    In fact, in the writer’s opinion the reverse is true. Their second argument presents a scenario to prove their point that mobile phones are a useful means for communication. Here they appeal strongly to the reader’s potential senses of “inconvenien[ce and] distress”. Mr James invokes the image of a “child suffering” in an “impossible” situation, and dramatically plays upon parental feelings of “guilt”. A hands-free unit is thus advocated as a means for the responsible adult to “readily take the call and take appropriate action”. The reader, imagined as such a driver, is greatly empowered in this scenario. Ironically, we are expected to ignore the dangers and potential disaster that one might more readily expect of a distressed and distracted driver rushing to the rescue! In such a scenario, I’d be far more comfortable if the parent simply concentrated on getting to the crisis, rather than trying to manage and conduct a mobile conversation. Of course, trying to persuade a parent to remain calm in a crisis is not as simple as it is to play upon their fears and ego.

    When Mr James next presents an alternative to “reduce the road toll” of fixing “our” roads, they may be successfully adding fuel to the fire of their persuasion. Blaming the State Government is far more palatable a position for a reader who considers themselves within the moral right of both a concerned parent and responsible citizen already; it’s rare for people to give up the privileges of modern technology when the obligation for action can be placed easily upon the State. The writer strengthens this argument by appealing to our sense of what is “a more logical focus”, and tells us that we are not simply being selfish or denying our own public duty because we are accepting “the price we all must pay” when we endeavour to fix our roads.

    Indeed, I am very suspicious of what cost the writer truly wishes to present to the reader in their article. It seems to me that Dr Gray’s contention “that this is eight per cent too many accidents” is an accurate assessment. The article however clearly contends that banning mobile phones is “reactionary and unnecessary”, and instead seeks to justify their uses and also advertise the use of hands-free units. Indeed, the strange and obvious attachment to the ear of the silhouetted driver proves the focal point for an image that would otherwise be entirely unremarkable. The caption asserts clearly to the reader that the driver is “Focussed and in control”, even if the writer, contrary to the implications of the report, will only admit that “we do not view hands-free phones as inherently unsafe”. A cynical reader must then wonder: where, and how many times, did advertisements for such accessories appear in that issue Driver magazine? Truly, the first rule of any publication is not “Inform the reader” but “Don’t bite the hand that feeds you,” and although you would think that the APG would serve the readers and drivers best the sponsors are truly the ones behind the wheel of the publication.

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