“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”.
“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.