Every third driver texts behind the wheel

Every third driver texts behind the wheel
Every third Swedish driver occasionally reads or sends text messages while behind the wheel. Experts say that texting can impair driving ability even more than extreme intoxication.

“This is the most dangerous thing of all that you can do in the car. You must be extremely intoxicated to pose as much risk as you do while texting,” Claes Tingvall, head of traffic safety at the Swedish Road Administration (Vägverket), told the TT news agency.

The worst offenders are drivers between the ages of 15 and 34, of which 46 percent sometimes use their mobiles while driving. The majority are male.

But 64 percent of drivers never use the SMS function when they are behind the wheel.

The statistics come from a web survey conducted by Sifo, which polled 3,331 people in cooperation with mobile network operator Tele 2.

“If you look away from the road for more than 1.5 seconds, the risk of an accident increases greatly. But even more so with texting,” Tingvall said.

The Internet survey clearly shows that those who can’t help but send and read text messages are aware that they are taking risks, and risking others’ lives. Ninety-five percent answered a question about whether or not texting influences driving ability in the affirmative.

Many don’t seem to have much faith in their fellow drivers as 39 percent believe that others often write or read text messages when they drive. But just 2 percent reported that they do it often.

Another indication that almost everyone believes that one shouldn’t use mobiles while driving is that 85 percent said it feels unsafe to ride with someone who is reading or writing text messages.

A similar poll conducted by Gallup in 2008 reported that less than 21 percent wrote text messages while behind the wheel and 12 percent read them. Similar to the Sifo survey, the offenders were predominantly young. Almost 40 percent of those between 18 and 29 read text messages and 26.4 wrote them while driving.

Research done by Vägverket shows that reaction time can be 40 percent slower while talking on the phone and even more so while texting.

It is prohibited to write and read text messages while driving even if the law doesn’t directly prevent the use of mobile telephones. Those who are a menace on the road due to mobile phone use can be convicted of careless driving.

Vägverket is in favour of a more explicit regulation, similar to that found in other European countries.

“We have submitted a proposal to the (Swedish) government as to how a law might be formulated. That was a year and a half ago. What has happened with it, I don’t know,” Tingvall said.

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