Mobile phone use in traffic ‘alarming’, new poll shows

Mobile phone in car.Photo: Dariusz Sankowski via Pixabay

According to a poll by road safety research institute SWOV, 65% of people use their mobile phones in traffic. The figures are especially worrying where children and mobile phone use is concerned, researchers said.

The poll, commissioned by insurer Interpolis, will gauge the use of mobile phones in traffic by drivers, cyclists, moped users and pedestrians for the next five years.

According to the first edition of the poll, 65% of respondents admit to using a mobile while participating in traffic but 76% says they think this is dangerous. Among the predictors of mobile phone use is age, habit and confidence in traffic skills, the researchers say.

Children

Youngsters between the ages of 12 and 17 give most cause for concern, the pollsters said. They are creatures of habit and, combined with a lower perception of risk, are even more likely to use their phones in traffic than adults. That is why much more needs to be done to create awareness in children, the researchers said.

Among adults, people who drive over 200,000 kilometers are the worst offenders, with 92% admitting they use their phones behind the wheel.

‘They are on the road all the time and use their phones the most, that means they are travelling a lot of kilometres while their attention is elsewhere,’ researcher Michiel Christoph told broadcaster NOS.

Passengers

86% of people said they felt unsafe when sitting next to someone using their phone to send a message while 80% of passengers said they made a comment about it.

Interpolis said the results of the poll were ‘alarming’. ‘It’s as if we can’t control ourselves,’ Interpolis spokeswoman Chantal Vergauw told NOS. ‘I don’t think higher fines will do the trick.’

Vergauw told the broadcaster she will organise a conference next year with behavioural scientists, traffic experts and politicians to talk about the problem and find solutions.

Law

The new Dutch government wants to class using a mobile phone screen at the wheel as ‘reckless behaviour’ – equivalent to driving under the influence of drink and drugs – which would lead to a driving ban and prison sentences for the worst offenders.

Texting while driving is banned but not explicitly cited in the law, and usually punished by a fine.