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Sweden takes another shot at banning texting behind the wheel

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Sweden takes another shot at banning texting behind the wheel
Soon, you won't be allowed to do this in Sweden either. Photo: Erik Nylander/TT
12:51 CET+01:00
Normally so safety-conscious Sweden remains one of the very few European countries that still allow mobile phone use behind the wheel, without using hands-free. But that is about to change.

The current law, introduced in 2013, only bans drivers from using their phones in a manner that could be deemed "detrimental" to their driving. Whether someone's driving is "detrimental" due to their mobile phone usage is down to the police to determine, but it has proven difficult in the past.

But on February 1st 2018, after much discussion, new regulations will come into force banning drivers, if not explicitly from calling or texting, then at least from doing so while holding the phone in their hand.

"Hands on the wheel, not on the mobile," reads the government statement.

"It will be clearer now that you're not allowed to fiddle with the phone while you're out driving. A clearer rule means that more will follow it," said Infrastructure Minister Tomas Eneroth.

Last year, a survey by the Swedish Transport Agency (Transportstyrelsen) found that 37 percent of Swedes text while driving. For those aged 18-30, the figure was 56 percent.

Another survey by vehicle testing agency Bilprovningen suggested even higher figures: seven out of ten of 2,000 respondents admitted to having read or sent a text message while behind the wheel.

The number of annual road deaths in Sweden has remained between 260 and 270 for the past three years. The tally of 2016 and 2013 was the lowest since the Second World War.

A total of 109 people died in traffic during the first six months of 2017, according to the Transport Agency, 12 fewer than the same period last year.

Sweden's worst years were 1965 and 1966 when 1,313 people died in traffic accidents, back when there were around 1.5 million cars on the roads and no smartphones, compared to almost five million cars today.

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