• Sweden edition
Texting behind the wheel 'harmless': agency

Texting behind the wheel 'harmless': agency

Published: 11 Apr 2012 09:01 GMT+02:00
Updated: 11 Apr 2012 09:01 GMT+02:00

“We’ve seen that it doesn’t help to have such a law while driving. This is partly because we’ve seen that people wouldn’t adhere to the law, and partly because we’ve seen no effect on crash risks,” said Katja Kircher of VTI to Sveriges Radio (SR).

VTI hopes instead that emerging technology in mobiles will increase traffic safety, according to the TT news agency.

The Local reported in June 2010 that a survey from insurance firm Trygg Hansa indicated that almost every second Swede has read or written a mobile phone text while driving.

The survey prompted the then infrastructure minister Åsa Torstensson to issue a statement saying that a ban was not the solution:

“For it to be effective you would need a total ban, as it is the calls themselves and their content that distracts the driver. Hands-free doesn’t help and I can’t see a total ban being passed,” she said at the time.

The news comes despite a recent push by the Riksdagen to ban texting and talking without handsfree, a move which was supported by Susanne Lekengård of motoring organisation Motormännen.

“Sweden is usually a pioneering country when it comes to road safety. Texting while driving is usually compared to drunk driving, due to the level of concentration required," Lekengård told The Local at the time.

Sweden remains on an increasingly thinning list of European countries allowing mobile phone use while driving, without using hands-free. The others on the list being Albania, Serbia, Moldova and Malta.

TT/The Local/og (news@thelocal.se)

Your comments about this article

09:43 April 11, 2012 by GAVIN KENNEDY
I've just arrived from New Zealand. It's been banned there for some time. Some drivers still flout the law but the majority don't want to take the risk of getting caught and fined. It staggers belief that a Swedish Govt agency is endorsing texting while driving. Its what we call 'a no-brainer' back home - texting is obviously an activity that distracts drivers. What is the motive behind the Road and Transport Institute's report - lowering Sweden's population ?
09:54 April 11, 2012 by Abe L
#1 - Has the measure dramatically reduce the number of traffic accidents and deaths due to traffic accidents? Has the number of people that previously died due to getting into traffic accidents because of someone texting/calling been reduced at all?

What you call a no-brainer is actually a very narrow minded no-brainer and I'm glade Sweden isn't blindly following other countries into such matters. They implemented a similar law in California not that long ago and it didn't make any difference at all. Neither in the number of accidents or the number of deaths that where a result of driving and calling/texting.

I hope they'll let the same guys do the speed limit increase investigation next time around, they seem to be on the right path.
09:55 April 11, 2012 by B Slick
SHAME on Katja Kircher and those who work at VTI that think using a cell phones while driving is OK. So VITs research is correct and all other countries research is bogus? Just one person being killed or injured because of someone playing with their cell phone is one to many. And why is it so important that we MUST have the ability to use our phones while driving? Next time someone is killed because someone was using a cell phone while dirving i demand that Katja Kircher attend the dead persons grave site services!!
10:10 April 11, 2012 by Ambre
so many accidents and deaths have happened all over the world because of this and Sweden, capital of health and safety, thinks it is ok to text and phone whilst driving?! Nonsense...shows again that Sweden has no brains!
10:19 April 11, 2012 by flintis
You only have to look to see that women are the biggest culprits of mobile use whilst driving along with applying make-up. Only a women would be so niaive as to not ban the use of mobile phones whilst driving.

Karcher should be removed from her post, she's obviously not competent
10:30 April 11, 2012 by muscle
The cars should offer some kind of feature, (voice to text input) which should be transfered to the cell phone. The device in the car should be activated ONLY when a cell phone is connected to it. The cell phone alone, without the connection to the device should be jammed, so that drivers are forced to use the handsfree feature if they want to text or call someone.

I think Nokia is working on such thing, but not sure if their research is focusing on this aspect or not
10:31 April 11, 2012 by BackpackerKev
Sweden is usually a pioneering country when it comes to road safety.

This makes me laugh.

Sweden has one of the poorest set of road standards i have seen in many western Europe countries. Signs are not positioned correctly so that a driver has adequate time to see the sign, assess the situation and drive safe, rather that, the signs are AT the hazard. Road markers are virtually non existent so half the time you dont know if it is a wide one lane, or a narrow 2 lane road until you see the faint paint marking of the last road maintenance in 1960. Pot holes the size of small meteorite craters dotting all over the place awaiting its next victim so someone gets a flat tyre. Aggressive drivers changing lanes, weaving in an out because a 4 lane half empty highway that shud have variable speed limit is limited to 60kph.

While answering a phone requires little moment and distraction from looking at the road, texting however required to most people, looking away from the road. and although may not cause many accidents, if that person is doing it at a time where schools out and or many pedestrian crossings, is it really worth that life.

Does this now give us all the go ahead to read a book while driving, read the daily newspaper. Dumb dumb dumb sweden.
10:31 April 11, 2012 by muscle
The cars should offer some kind of feature, (voice to text input) which should be transfered to the cell phone. The device in the car should be activated ONLY when a cell phone is connected to it. The cell phone alone, without the connection to the device should be jammed, so that drivers are forced to use the handsfree feature if they want to text or call someone.

I think Nokia is working on such thing, but not sure if their research is focusing on this aspect or not

hmm but then again what will happen to the ones who are not driving :S damn!
10:39 April 11, 2012 by B Slick
Could there be a connection between the cell phone companies in Sweden and their power base and the VTI (swedish tranportation department) ? Think about it, if a ban on the use of cell phones in Sweden should be made law think about all the money the cell phone companies stand to lose? Because of VTI irrational decision there must be more to this story than "meets the eye" causing one to become suspicious about the possible connection between VTI and all the Swedish cell phone companies.
10:45 April 11, 2012 by Brianito
So Karcher totally disagrees with the "World Health Organization" report titled "Mobile Phone Use: A Growing Problem Of Distraction" or was she too busy texting to search the internet for it ... it is freely available at the World Health Organization website. "Stupid is as Stupid does" .... Karcher, you are an imbecile, it's time to step down from your post.

10:52 April 11, 2012 by zooeden
Wow Im stunned they say this so lightly!!!
11:13 April 11, 2012 by strixy
Are they totally STUPID? It is a matter of time before someone kills a pedestrian because of texting when driving! It happens all over Europe and I understand Swedes would like to feel they are an exception but they are NOT!
11:51 April 11, 2012 by Buckshot
Typical attitude of Swedish people. "Whatever other people say, We(the Swedes) know best".
12:00 April 11, 2012 by eppie

Indeed you are right.

But if you read the first paragraph, they state a ban will not make sense because people will still call and text while driving.

So what actually is happening is that texting and calling while driving is not safe but Sweden does not wish to spend time on fining people.

Driving through a red light is also not allowed but you can do this is sweden everywhere because police chooses not to check this.
12:17 April 11, 2012 by weballergy
As some others commented, is weird that Sweden has a good standards in another safety things, and not in this one.

Or they dont want to spend some time in analyzing the facts, or they're actually really stupid.

Some geniuses around there spend 200.000 kr in a car, and are not able to buy or use the bluetooth hands free on it?

Let me tell you something... denying that using the phone (and even worse, TEXTING) will not increase accidents is denying an actual fact.

And is totally going against the regulations of most of the EU countries that have already adopted (if the majority did it, it means that they might have a good reason, don't they?, or the rest are fools and Sweden not?)

Sooner or later will have to change this, is a matter of time, not a matter of what a bunch of geniuses in the Swedish National Road and Transport Institute might conclude.
12:34 April 11, 2012 by Shibumi
I'm with B Slick post #9 on this one.

Telecommunications companies (Ericsson, TeliaSonera...) make up about 20% of the Stockholm stock index... and it used to be much higher. Need we look further?
12:47 April 11, 2012 by Liquidmonkey
anything that detracts from a drivers ability to concentrate 100% while driving is bad.

its bad for the driver.

its bad for people around the car.

using your phone, ESPECIALLY texting is one of those.

using a handsfree is sort of ok but thats the limit IMHO.

you can't even have ONE BEER in this country but its totally ok to drive and text?!?!?
12:55 April 11, 2012 by Ade70
Crazy...the amount of drivers here who are holding a phone to their ear while driving is huge, due to this it seems they aren't able to turn their heads to look left and indicating is totally forgotten.
13:08 April 11, 2012 by Snood
#18. They don't need to be on the phone in Sweden to forget to indicate. It#s as if the indicator stalk is made red hot metal here.

We discussed this news at lunch at work just now. I am the only non-swede with 4 swedes at the table. We were in unanimous agreement that this announcement is complete bulls**t.

One life saved is surely worth it. Just because Sweden is statistically one of the safest countries in the world re: driving, it doesn't mean there isn't room for further improvement. Bad move Sweden.
14:47 April 11, 2012 by Keith #5083
I really hope the Elg get the message..that second or two to react makes a big difference when you hit 500 kilo. But,hey, WTH, only peeps whose lives are controlled by others need to do this. Those who are in control themselves tell the phone to........wait until convenient.It's kinda the difference between executive and clerk!
15:35 April 11, 2012 by Reason abd Realism
Katja is an imbecile, either intellectually, or because she has been made into one for politcal or economic purposes. If the latter, shame on her for not choosing common sense and public safety.

No study would ever conclude that it is harmless to add a distraction to any ofther task that requires concentration, and where failure to execute that task properly can have lethal consequences. And just as in drinking and driving, the idiot who is texting might not only kill themselves, but they could also kill you. Even if the texter instinctively slows down while texting, this adds to disruptions in traffic flow that are disruptive and dangerous for other drivers.

Will Katja now tell the world that the pilots of commercial aircraft now have permission to send texts galore and surf Facebook while on their approach path to land at Arlanda?
17:31 April 11, 2012 by BritVik
When you look at the list of countries that allow this situation then it does not put Sweden in a very good light. 'Sverige, Albanien, Serbien, Moldavien och Malta' , all very advanced countries in the realm of road safety - - - -

Volvo put Sweden on the road safety map, but this sort of idiocy will certainly not keep it there other than for negative reasons.

Texting on a phone requires two hands, both eyes, and the attention away from the road, or holding a phone to your ear makes do with one, which is still one hand less with which to control a vehicle - especially at motorway speeds.

The mind boggles at the way these officials think - that is if they do - on this subject. But then, other countries around the world don't know what the VTI knows - or thinks it knows.
18:10 April 11, 2012 by bow290
@ Abe L, ur an idiot! and so are the swedish VTI if they think using a phone is fine while driving... and texting!? are u for real? u think it is safe!?

another thing that i see as unsafe when driving is having baby chairs in the front seat, just as distracting as a phone or reading a newspaper while driving
18:27 April 11, 2012 by Spuds MacKenzie
This is absolutely SHOCKING! Most states in the USA now ban texting while driving & cell phone use only with a headset. Has Sweden lost its mind?!
18:27 April 11, 2012 by skatty
Obviously it's harmful. The agency is not qualified.
18:33 April 11, 2012 by zat_xela
Get off your high horses everyone and read what Ms. Kircher actually said. VTI does not condone texting while driving at all. The reality is that there is almost no difference between hands on and hands free phone use in collision stats. The laws that limit drivers to hands free devices are not working. The only thing that would help is a complete ban on electronic devices and this would not be practical or acceptable to you.
18:42 April 11, 2012 by Reason abd Realism
@ zat_xela

Are you delirious?

Do you seriously believe that any study conducted with scientific rigour (as done in the rest of the civilized world) would conclude that composing a text message while driving is the SAME as hands free?

And this 'laws are not working' nonsense is utterly logic-less. Also not easy to keep drug dealers out of gymnasium school yards, so should we just give up and stop trying to make drug dealing on school premises illegal?
19:15 April 11, 2012 by jack sprat
Absolute lunacy for a country that has pioneered many road safety devices.

Also lunacy to say that such a law cannot be applied.

For example when an accident or incident has occurred it is not rocket science to check if the drivers mobile was in use at the time and throw the book at him/her if it proves to be the case.
20:04 April 11, 2012 by BillyB
Such a stupid decision you can only assume there was a total misunderstanding somewhere...it cant be true...
20:52 April 11, 2012 by Mb 65
A guy in the UK died yesterday while talking to his wife with a new baby on his mobile and she heard the crash he hit a tree. How can anyone in their right mind say that it isn't dangerous.
21:03 April 11, 2012 by muscle
OMG now i understand the whole crap.... its perhaps because they are going to launch stupid law that will be something like this:

"If you hit a guy and you were on cellphone while driving, you are to be set free"
21:40 April 11, 2012 by johan rebel
"We've seen that it doesn't help to have such a law while driving. This is partly because we've seen that people wouldn't adhere to the law"

Cool. Now how about abolishing all the silly speed limits that most sensible Swedes don't adhere to?
22:48 April 11, 2012 by Swedish Meatbulls
Ban using mobiles while driving now Sweden!

I was Cm away from being driven off the road by someone using there mobile a few months back. You only need to be behind someone driving and talking into a mobile to realizes how unconcentrated they are. But that's Sweden for you always having to invent the wheel again. :-/
01:21 April 12, 2012 by strixy
Does Katja not understand that when you are driving a vehicle and you are looking at your mobile phone screen instead of at the road in front of you, you can actually injure or kill someone? Does she need to have it drawn to understand it?
02:34 April 12, 2012 by HeartlandLiberal
Tell that to teenagers who are dying all over the United States while texting and driving. E.g., quoting from a news report on Huffington Post:

Taylor Sauer knew facebooking while driving was a bad idea.

The 18-year-old college student said so in her last status update: "I can't discuss this now. Driving and facebooking is not safe! Haha."

At the time, Sauer was driving 80 mph from the Utah State University campus in Logan to visit her folks in Caldwell, Idaho, and was passing the time on the four-hour drive by messaging her friend about the Denver Broncos, according to MSNBC.com

Moments after her last update, she crashed her car into a tanker truck that was going 15 mph up a hill and was killed instantly.
06:00 April 12, 2012 by Marc the Texan
I'm pretty sure it's been proven to be a driving hazard in multiple controlled studies. Saying it's unenforceable is like saying seatbelt laws are unenforceable. Plus if someone causes an accident while texting, an additional penalty can certainly be enforced after the accident.
07:18 April 12, 2012 by Rick Methven
The national road safety laboratory in the UK has concluded, after a number of tests, that texting/using social media while driving results in the same loss of concentration as being twice over the British legal drink drive limit. If you drove with that much alcohol in your blood in Sweden, you would get 6 months in prison, a very large fine and a 5 year ban, but if it is a phone and not a bottle it is OK in Sweden.

Coming to Denmark yesterday, at Helsingor a Danish cop pointed to the Swede in the car ahead of me coming off the ferry and indicated that he should not use the phone.
11:13 April 12, 2012 by OUIJA
The "agency" that came to the conclusion written in this story, should be banned and Freulein Kircher should be sent inmediately to a shrink. Perhaps, she will keen on talking and texting while driving and that is the reason of her very stupid comment. But what can you expect of women like Kircher? More than that? Impossible. Her "brains" don't produce more.
11:36 April 12, 2012 by Borilla
The agency's conclusion follows the usual Swedish legal approach: The banning of texting while behind the wheel doesn't prevent accidents because "people wouldn't adhere to the law..." Therefore the law should be erased from the books and not enforced. Perhaps we should apply the same logic to murder, armed robbery, assault and similar legal infractions. After all, if people are going to kill each other anyway, why make it illegal?
20:20 April 12, 2012 by BobBob
"Sweden is usually a pioneering country when it comes to road safety". Yes, sure, it's right "up there" with Albania, Moldova, Serbia... For God's sake get real Sweden! Look at yourself!

I visit Sweden often and have noticed how Swedes adore their mobile phones. Could it be that the politicians / law-makers are in love with their mobile phone too? You bet they are.

There are some things that Sweden, in spite of all the evidence, cannot let go: Look at snus. Sweden, in these matters, is head-in-the-sand, smug and self-delusional.
10:12 April 13, 2012 by willpf
When I text whilst driving, I'm all over the road, especially with a touch screen phone.

Great! I can carry on having near misses..
14:50 April 13, 2012 by LagomSucks
I watched a TV program on National Geographic. They had done a study in the US which showed that talking on your cell phone whilst driving was the equivelent drop in concentration to having 0.8 milligrams of alcohol in your blood. Isn't the legal limit 0.2 here?

I have been nearly run over on a designated crossing twice. The 1st time the driver saw me at the last minute and skidded to a halt. The 2nd time they didn't have time to brake so were force to drive around me instead. Both times the drivers (women) had cell phones in their hands.

(which has happended twice)
14:57 April 13, 2012 by Mshepard
A few readers here understand that Sweden, unlike most western nations, can enforce sensible practice by NOT creating punitive, useless laws. Be assured that if someone is dumb enough to text or talk on a cell phone while driving and the causes an accident and more especially--hurts someone else, he or she will suffer the consequences. There are other driving laws already in practice which allow the courts to punish reckless driving. VTI is simply saying that there is more to unsafe driving than texting.

Compared to the US and Britain, Sweden has a marvelously effective way of encouraging good behavior without threatening people. It's one of the reasons I like to live here.
15:22 April 13, 2012 by james_g
@ Mshepard - " if someone is dumb enough to text or talk on a cell phone while driving and the(n) causes an accident and more especially--hurts someone else, he or she will suffer the consequences" - idiot! You don't seem to realise that the someone else will have ALREADY suffered the consquences, quite possible to the extent of not being available to suffer anything else ever more!
16:17 April 13, 2012 by tadchem
There will always be people who flout the law. To encourage safe driving, this unsafe behavior must be discouraged. The way to accomplish that is with inevitable negative consequences.

Texting whil driving is as dangerous as driving while drunk/impaired.

Impound the vehicles of convicted offenders, or confiscate their licenses if they are driving vehicles owned by someone else.
20:18 April 13, 2012 by Bigbobswinden
You cannot text or talk, and concentrate on the road at the same time. A TV program on the BBC had a demonstration of the distraction caused by mobile phones, fortunately it was only cones that were crushed.
22:58 April 13, 2012 by David68
great country sweden but if england and most other countrys ban it why do they do it and sweden does not,reason its not safe,shocking this review as to me texting is worse than drink driving!
23:19 April 13, 2012 by skylarkpilot
People wouldn't adhere to the law.....This is quite literally one of the dumbest things I have personally ever heard an official in any country say. If they truly believe that why are they breat testing everyone in Falun every morning on the way to work, ,,,,,Oh yeah that's right, if you ignore the law you lose your license. This woman and her agency are a complete and utter bunch of idiots !

I have been driving here for over ten years now and the number of times recently when someone on a mobile has almost hit me is unbelieveable. Chatting away merrily, looking in the wrong direction on the approach to the roundabout that I was already on and straight out in front of me completely oblivious. The other on one of the lunatic give way to traffic from the right junctions, woman on a mobile just pulled out in front of me even though it was my right of way. Didn't help that at the time I was travelling downhill on ice. The driving in this country is bad enough without letting the Swedish love affair with the mobile phone enter the equation !
23:03 April 14, 2012 by Da Goat
Don't be silly people the Police don't have the time to enforce a silly law like this one, they have to have time for Fika and they have to practice their shooting so that they are not so dangerous!

making it illegal will not make any difference to the silly people that do it Only a Darwin award will accomplish that properly! After a number of generations only sensible and quick witted people will exist, might even solve the immigration debate as well!
17:51 April 16, 2012 by zat_xela
@Reason abd(sic) Realism

I may be delirious but I'm still correct...every study done with scientific rigour has shown the same results. Hands on or hands free = same level of distraction. This is regarding cell phone conversation. Texting, however, is different and studies show that no one is capable of safely driving while texting. About 4% of drivers are capable of driving safely while speaking on a phone...don't argue with me, it's just science; reasonable and realistic science.
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