FFE Magazine

Do You Still Use Your Mobile Phone While Driving?

Texting while driving entails the use of mobile phones and other hand-held devices while driving a motor vehicle. “Texting” also constitutes composing, sending and reading SMS, emailing, and web use. Each European country may have different definitions to refine this dangerous habit among drivers. But the dangers of this activity remain similar even if the effects come in varying severity.

The dangers of texting while driving

            Your phone beeps while you’re on a stop light. You’re searching for a parking space you can’t find. You need to make an emergency call on the road regarding a quick change of plans. In these instances, most people cannot fight the urge to let go the steering wheel and direct their eyes away from the road and towards their phone. In a survey conducted by Ford Motor Company among European drivers, 14 percent of respondents admitted to use their phones while driving.

            Texting while driving is a type of distracted driving that can lead to road accidents. One simple text message may not mean much, but the attention needed to compose or read a message takes drivers’ focus away from the road. Studies have shown that drivers’ reaction times slow down by 50% once they use their phone. What is more alarming is that a split-second lapse in concentration can instantly lead to fatal crashes.

Statistics and existing EU laws on texting while driving

            Most European countries restrict the use of hand-held devices while driving. However, not everyone follows this prohibition. Ireland has seen a 10 percent rise from 2010 of incidents related to texting while driving. Forty-four percent of British drivers have admitted to texting while driving.

            In a bid to limit road accidents because of texting, a number of European countries have adapted local policies to totally ban the use of hand-held devices while on the road.

            Finnish drivers have their licenses suspended for one to six months when they violate driving laws three times in a single year or four times in over two years.

            Bicyclists in Austria are not exempted from the policy. Those who are found to use hand-held devices while cycling are fined.

            In Serbia, where 20 percent of accidents involve cell phone use, total ban is being followed, and violators are fined and sometimes jailed when caught.

            Swedish laws are relaxed when it comes to the use of mobile phones in a moving vehicle. However, because of the rising number of crashes related to texting, police didn’t have second thoughts nabbing their first case involving a driver who texted while driving.

            The European Transport Safety Council has proposed a total cell phone ban in the region. They also urged local authorities to exercise their prohibitions strictly.

How to break the habit

            One of the alternatives to using hand-held devices that is allowed in most countries in Europe is the use of hand-free devices. But while hand-free kits are trending, authorities continue to warn against their use as drivers are still liable to become distracted.

            Texting while driving has become so ingrained in most drivers that they become like additions that are difficult to break. But the best way to curb this habit among drivers is personal restraint. Simple tricks like turning off your mobile phone or setting them in silent mode will keep temptation out. Drivers should also remember that there are better ways to answer or read text messages: either they park their cars or wait until they reach their destination. By doing this, not only are they preventing accidents. They are also potentially saving their own lives.

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