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Swedes flout ban on texting behind the wheel

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Swedes flout ban on texting behind the wheel
Don't text and drive! Photo: Erik Nylander/TT
16:21 CEST+02:00
A four-month-old law banning the use of mobile phones in the car has not had much of an effect on Sweden’s motorists.
Since the much-discussed ban came into effect on February 1, more than 350 drivers have been charged with violating the law. 
 
In nearly all of the cases in which drivers have been charged with using a handheld device while driving, they have been slapped with a 1,500 kronor (€145, $170) fine according to Sveriges Radio Ekot. 
 
The new regulations ban 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," read a government statement about the ban.
 
"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,"  Infrastructure Minister Tomas Eneroth said back in December.
 
The high number of violations indicates that Eneroth’s prediction may have been off. 
 
According to the latest report from the Swedish Transport Agency (Transportstyrelsen), mobile phone use is behind around 100 traffic accidents each year. 
 
There is still some uncertainty about the extent of the new law. For example, the courts have not decided whether drivers are allowed to use their phones while their vehicles are stationary. 
 
Public prosecutor Johan Bülow said the state is working to determine whether police officers can issue fines on the spot when they catch motorists flouting the ban.
 
“We want to have legal certainty on this. We quite simply want to know where the courts stand on the issue,” he told Ekot. 
 
A 2016 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.
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