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Sweden: talk, text and drive? OK

A ban wouldn’t work anyway

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Sweden is bucking the international trend towards restricting the use of mobiles in cars, reasoning that drivers would just ignore a ban.

Swedish news site The Local is reporting that the Swedish National Road and Transport Institute (VTI) has decided there is “no reason” to ban drivers from talking or even texting – partly because half of the country’s drivers do so anyway.

Looking at the overseas experience, the VTI says the benefits of introducing a ban “generally dissipate within a year or so” of legislation being introduced.

At any given moment, the VTI estimates, as many as 6 percent of drivers are using their mobile phones, most of them using handheld units.

Partly, the VTI argues, people wouldn’t adhere to the law – but perhaps surprisingly, the agency’s Katja Kircher also told Sverges Radio that “we’ve seen no effect on crash risks”. This is in sharp contrast to studies in other countries, which have compared the distraction of mobile phones to have an effect similar to drink-driving.

The study doesn’t class mobile usage as safe, however: in particular, it notes that an engaging, interesting or lengthy conversation increases the risk; brief and simple conversations are less risky. However, most countries trying to regulate mobile usage demand hands-free devices, and the VTI believes that offers no benefit in terms of crash risk.

The VTI’s decision is based on a review of international literature regarding the safety of using mobiles phones while driving.

According to The Local, Albania, Serbia, Moldova and Malta are the only other European countries that haven’t gotten around to banning mobile use while driving.

The institute proposes that education and information would be better than an outright ban. The full report is here. ®

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