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Sweden mulls ban on texting while driving

TT/Peter Vinthagen Simpson · 4 Apr 2011, 11:49

Published: 04 Apr 2011 11:49 GMT+02:00

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"We are very happy that this is finally going to happen. We have been pushing for it for some time," Susanne Lekengård at motoring organisation Motormännen told The Local on Monday.

Anders Ygeman, the Social Democrat head of the parliamentary traffic committee, has confirmed that the Alliance government has reached a compromise with the Social Democrats for the tightening of legislation to bring Swedish road safety into line with much of the EU.

"One can question why it has taken so long, 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 explained.

"Focus has previously been placed on the talking itself and not the technologies used," she said.

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.

But the government now appears to have shifted on the issue, conceding that the time is right to tighten legislation from 1951 which stipulates a general ban on "activities in a car which endanger road safety".

Story continues below…

"That was our conclusion, that it is not sufficiently clear," Anders Ygeman told the TT news agency.

Sweden is one of the last countries in Europe to tighten its legislation covering SMS and to require hands-free telephone calls while driving with neighbouring countries Norway, Denmark and Finland, already having introduced a ban.

TT/Peter Vinthagen Simpson (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

12:31 April 4, 2011 by urban stkhlm
It is truly scary what passes for driving these days - during the morning rush, I have seen almost every other car driver using an iphone or equivalent - often completely oblivious to everything around them! The sad thing is that the government will probably not take action until people start getting killed by drivers who were checking their email while driving.
12:48 April 4, 2011 by eppie
@ urban stkhlm

Indeed. So why didn't they extend this rule a bit to having phone conversations as well?

And when the local says; sweden is one of the last countries......

Last time I checked a european street atlas traffic rules section, there is only one other country in europe where you are also allowed to use a phone while driving. It was Moldavia i think.

But seeing that swedes are already very poor drivers, and that they drive the biggest cars in europe on average, Sweden should have been the first country to ban using phones while driving.
13:06 April 4, 2011 by Shibumi
It's about time!

And to those who believe that hands-free phone conversations are as safe as talking with someone in the passenger seat... they are not. A passenger can see when/if you need to pay even more attention to the road and will adapt his/her communication accordingly. Indeed, s/he can even be another set of eyes to help alert the driver to potential danger. A phone caller, on the other hand, cannot see if you're driving through a difficult situation and just continues to converse obliviously.
13:09 April 4, 2011 by Mxzf
It's not like every third driver in Stockholm isn't completely oblivious anyway. But texting, especially on an iphone (no tactile keyboard), is seriously dangerous while driving since you have to focus on the device.
13:09 April 4, 2011 by urban stkhlm
Not only is Sweden next-to-last in Europe, but even many (a majority of?) U.S. states have made text messaging while driving an offence.
13:24 April 4, 2011 by Nemesis
This needs to be banned as a priority.

It is nerve wrecking being in a car with a Swede when they decide to start texting their friends while driving.
13:26 April 4, 2011 by Rick Methven
I think it was being alongside that other stalwart hitech advanced country -Albania as being the only countries in Europe that still permitted use of hand held phones. that finally got them to see sense.
13:43 April 4, 2011 by donutwallah
This has been banned in the UK for ages. The ban is widely ignored because the probability of being caught is vanishingly small.
13:57 April 4, 2011 by occassional
What is the point of a law which can very rarely be enforced? What is needed, as in most other cases, is a technical solution. Same with speed limits. Cars can be fitted with sensors that reduce the maximum speed they achieve depending on the last sign read. No more speed cameras and doughnut cops lurking in the bushes. A lot of parasitic professions would find themselves out of a job then.
14:52 April 4, 2011 by GOOD KARMA
About bloody time. The times i have passed lorries and cars on the motorway only to see them staring down towards their knees in my rear view mirror, really, it baffles me how this could be legal for so long. Keep up Sweden, let's get talking on the phone dealt with too.
15:51 April 4, 2011 by Mib
How many road safety people does it take to change a light bulb!!?

I can imagine that they had to have several meetings with Fika breaks, 1000's of hours of paid consultancy, more meetings and visiting far away places such as Monaco, Barbados to analyse what they do today. Then...finally a light bulb appears with a DING! Maybe they had a few English people in the meeting trying to get them to say things in Swedish correctly, just like in the Telia ad. While they deliberate and fondle their balls or whatever, many people have either died or been seriously injured while they cafuffle.

Saw a police show on TV where a lorry driver on a motorway was messing with his phone in the cab and didn't notice the lane had stopped due to traffic. He hit the back of a peugeot 205 and the car was crushed completely......the woman driver was killed and no doubt obliterated based on the look of the car.
16:31 April 4, 2011 by Swedesmith
Sweden has a lot of rules. I think it is technically illegal to p1ss while in the shower. Gosh. However, this would be a welcome ban. Driving requires your full concentration.
23:12 April 4, 2011 by mikewhite
My suggestion would be that phone records be examined in the event of any incident or collision, with phone activity at the time leading to a much heavier penalty, due to culpable negligence.
01:58 April 5, 2011 by Beavis
"For it to be effective you would need a total ban" Not true.. For it to be effective it needs to be enforced, simple as. Hands free should only be allowed. Otherwise countless transport businneses will go out of business and there will never be a bus on time again!
03:25 April 5, 2011 by volvoman9
How about this for a solution. A simple addition to the software of new cars and cellphones that disables the texting function when the car is in motion. Simple to achieve and problem solved. Now who will be the first to trot this out. How about you Volvo? Or perhaps Errikson?
05:31 April 5, 2011 by Smiling Canuk
Its illegal in Canada. I'm surprised its not in Sweden. But of course some idiots still do it even where it is banned.
07:08 April 5, 2011 by Rick Methven

"My suggestion would be that phone records be examined in the event of any incident"

You would think that that would be automatic,

My cousins daughter in the UK was stopped by the police for using a handheld phone while driving. She denied the charge as her phone was in he handbag on the back seat at the time and was connected to the handsfree via bluetooth. What she had been doing was twiddling with her hair at the traffic lights with a cop car behind her. She took it to court along with a printout from her phone company that showed no calls had been made or received for more than 2 hours before or after the time of the alleged offence. The magistrate refused to look at them saying he believed the testimony of the "professional" Police officer rather than paper evidence. Result £60 fine increased to £1,000 for wasting court time.
09:20 April 5, 2011 by SweAbroad
Although I agree with the general idea, I think it's important to see the whole picture.

Sweden had 270 casualties in traffic last year (pop. 10M). That's the lowest in the world per capita, besides Malta (a mediterranean island with less than 300k inhabitants).

Also, I see many more driving and talking on the mobile phone here in the UK than when I am in Sweden although it's banned here and allowed in Sweden. How come? Attitudes don't change just because laws are introduced, the must come hand in hand (or preferably the right attitude should come first!).
09:50 April 5, 2011 by uunbeliever

Looking at the numbers, Sweden has the best drivers in Europe. I was recently back in Vancouver (Canada for the ignorant) and I was amazed at the level that I had to up my concentration. I could not imagine a rondell or only a right of way yellow diamond there, it is already chaos!! I will take traffic in Sweden over British Columbia any day. Insurance rates also demonstrate the difference. With a 40% discount for having a no accident record in Vancouver my insurance was 125 dollars a month!!! (900:-) Here that is close to my yearly cost for a 2000 Volvo V70!

And yes, it is really stupid to text while driving, I thought it was illegal already.
10:57 April 5, 2011 by Angry Ami
Huh? wait a minute, this is legal but going to a hooker isn't, this can get the driver as well as pedestrians killed or injured.

"cognitive dissonance"
11:27 April 5, 2011 by stupr
@ Angry Ami

texting / calling whilst driving versus going to a hooker....... sorry but I fail to see the connection there.
14:53 April 5, 2011 by Palme
I'd like to begin with saying that i fully agree with you that texting should be forbidden while driving but...

obs! don't take it personal


So you are saying that talking should be forbidden as well ? Then why not forbid to listen to radio/music at the same time you drive and to sing along with the music or listen to a audio book ? Why not forbid to talk with other passengers ? What's the difference between talking with other passengers and talking with someone using a hands-free on the phone? It's not like you can't say hold on for a second if the situation get's intensive?

#3 as i just said. It's not like you can't say hold on for a second if the situation get's intensive?

If you feel so bad at multitasking that you can't see while talk/listening then don't but most if us actually can talk and see at the same time...
08:19 April 7, 2011 by technoviking
This isn't "multi-tasking".

There have been pretty conclusive studies that this causes accidents and kills people.

It's not unlike banning smoking indoors.
00:57 April 8, 2011 by Essjay
I have seen so many Swedish drivers on their phones in sometimes awful road conditions and after having been involved in an accident with a Swedish driver who was at fault I am happy to take the train though worried a driver at the crossing is more concerned about their phone .

Seems to me that some people actually worship their phone , almost like a new religion ,!

Devoted followers of consumer soon to be out of date goods !

Thy mobile cometh from the Apple Mac Tree and the serpent spoke and sayeth hast though downloaded the latest app , yea though has done so but just hitteth a person while upon your chariot !

The Great God Apple Is forgiving !

Upon subscription !
03:04 April 8, 2011 by Strongbow
In Sweden it is already forbidden to drive unsafely, which includes texting while driving, putting on makeup while driving, reading a book while driving, watching a movie while driving.... Stuff that probably aren't all explicitly banned in every European country yet. The law should be clean and simple and not get into unnecessary detail.
14:49 April 8, 2011 by tadchem
For government controls on human behavior to be effective, there must be a high probability of bad personal consequences to the violator.

That means active enforcement (drivers should be halted and cited if they are even seen holding a cell phone while driving) and real costs in terms of money (steep fines for infractions, restitution for damages to other's property, no insurability for damages to their own property) and freedom (loss of liberty if a violation results in harm to another person).
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