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Driving bus while gabbing on a mobile 'not a crime': Swedish court

David Landes · 3 Dec 2009, 14:58

Published: 03 Dec 2009 14:58 GMT+01:00

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The driver was captured on video by a passenger’s mobile phone camera as he drove about 50 passengers between Stockholm and Uppsala, the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper reports.

The clip shows the driver holding a mobile phone in one hand while scribbling in notebook with the other.

A district court found the driver guilty of reckless driving, and his initial appeal was also rejected.

But on Wednesday, Sweden’s highest court reversed the lower court rulings, freeing the man of all charges.

While the court judged the driver’s behaviour as inappropriate, it argued that there is no statue forbidding him from talking on a mobile phone while driving.

In addition, driving conditions were clear, the road was straight, and there was no indication in the video clip that the driver’s control over the bus was compromised.

Story continues below…

“He was driving on a straight and smooth road and there was almost no traffic, and besides the weather was nice. His view was good and he had both hands on the wheel almost the whole time,” Henric Ask, a lawyer from the Legal Bureau of the Swedish Trade Union Confederation who represented the driver in the case, told DN.

David Landes (david.landes@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

15:42 December 3, 2009 by Essingen
16:22 December 3, 2009 by Mb 65
What if the bus got a front wheel puncture or a deer or something run out in front of the bus. Did the judge take that into consideration.
16:36 December 3, 2009 by dsclimb
In the UK this would set a legal precident in 'Case Law', impacting on all future cases. They couldn't legally convict any other person driving in similar conditions, ie weather, road type etc.

Not sure if something similar is in Swedish Judicial System.
17:14 December 3, 2009 by jones2
This does set precedent - courts in Sweden aren't bound by case law in the same way as courts in common law countries, but Supreme Court judgments are very influential on future cases. Nuts, in this case.
19:58 December 3, 2009 by Beynch
Well, if it isn't a crime, then make it a crime!
20:10 December 3, 2009 by davidreid
Incredible !! If it is not against the Law it should be. A slogan of a British newspaper used to have for a slogan "all human life is there", it could apply to Swedish buses. In Stockholm they carry people of every colour and creed, young and old with sticks or walking frames. Often 2 or 3 babies in push chairs at any one time. They have one thing in common, they all want a safe, smooth ride - fat chance, many drivers are preoccupied with mobiles and more often than not they drive on the edge of the brakes, stopping short at every stop to maximum discomfort. The majority need retraining in customer care or even electric buses should be introduced
22:03 December 3, 2009 by lovisa92@hotmail.com
Just mad!

Swedish law never seizes to amaze me.
22:52 December 3, 2009 by hjoian
this is a tricky one....straight road,good visibility,maybe not such a problem,but if it is legal to chat on a phone in built up areas,with more traffic and pedestrians,then maybe this will end up being reviwed when the first batch of people are killed.....its what happened in UK.
23:24 December 3, 2009 by Eagle63
Get real... I've been driving busses in The Netherlands for 23 years, its the most stressfull, overpopulated place in Europe and passengers are usually not as polite as in Sweden (or Canada..). Besides that, we nowadays have to operate an ever increasing number of electronic devices in the vehicle, answering questions from passengers, keeping track of our schedule, communicating with other drivers to facilitate transfers, all this usually in pooring rain in crowded narrow streets, roads full of nasty speedbumps, or highways full of aggresive dutch drivers. So answering a simple phone call when the going is easy (for a change) is really a very minor thing and can be handled with ease by an experienced busdriver.

I myself am also a certified pilot, so I am used to an even higher workload than that, especially when flying by yourself into and out of the bigger airports in Europe with fast and frequent communications with ATC, while also flying overly complex departure and arrival routes because noise-abatement and keeping an eye on the weather etc. But don't worry folks; it's all being done with safety as the #1 priority, on the bus and in the air...
00:34 December 4, 2009 by Authentica

@Eagle63, I feel reassured after reading your comment. Especially the last paragraph!
05:20 December 4, 2009 by Rick Methven

I to have a bus driver and have a pilots licence.

Although commercial Pilots are often are often called overpaid bus drivers there is a world of difference.

The pilot communicates with ATC using a headset he does not use a hand held system that distracts him from driving. As a pilot you follow the track/heading/ altitude instructions given to you by the controller. You also rely on that same controller to ensure that other aircraft are not on a collision course with you. You do not need to keep a look out for a car, animal, cyclist that may suddenly appear in front of you.

When I got my PSV licence in the UK, we had old Bristol busses with the driver in a cab in the front separated from the passengers. We then changed to more modern(for the time) One Man operated buses where the passengers paid the driver.

After an accident where a driver knocked down a pedestrian because he was distracted when talking to a passenger, signs where put up in the buses saying "Do Not talk to the driver while the bus is in motion". The problem of distraction from the job in hand was recognised 45 years ago.

If bus drivers need to be in communication with the depot. then a hands free system that can receive calls but not initiate calls while on the move would be better
08:09 December 4, 2009 by Taketh
It should be a crime, but remember the bus drivers also use radio to communicate with fellow bus drivers and HQ.

They should use bluetooth and some handsfree devices for more ease.

Lastly....it's statute and not statue....lol. OCD!
10:07 December 4, 2009 by Rick Methven
if eagle63 uses his mobile while driving his bus in Holland we wont be driving for long. It has been illegal to use a mobile while driving there since 2002. Since May this year it is banned on mopeds as well.

Extract from UK

What is the penalty if caught using a mobile phone while driving?

If you accept a roadside fixed penalty notice, you will receive 3 points on your licence and a fine of £60. If a case goes to court, in addition to points, you could face discretionary disqualification on top a maximum fine of £1,000 (or £2,500 in the case of drivers of buses/coaches and goods vehicles).

So in the UK the bus driver would have been fined 30,000Kr and most probably;y lost his licence!!
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