Vias: ‘young driver rather busy with selfies and texting’
New research by traffic institute, Vias, is quite revealing about young drivers. On the road, one in three of the 1.000 young people surveyed (18-30 years old) is busy with just about everything except the traffic because of the use of a cell phone behind the wheel.
Selfies, texting messages or reading e-mails: apparently, it is part of the driving behavior of many young people, even if you lose some of your attention as a driver.
Selfie while driving
Young drivers turn out to be true ‘multi-taskers’ in their mindset. One in three said they read or sent a message or e-mail behind the wheel in the past month. One on five called with their cell phones in their hands. Approximately 6% took a selfie while driving.
Besides, Flemish youngsters appear to grab their cell phones for texting (35%) a little faster than their Walloon (29%) and Brussels (24%) peers, who in turn are more likely to drive under the influence of drugs and alcohol.
In Wallonia, one in seven young people (15%) say they have driven after drinking in the past month. This is twice as much as the young Flemish (8%) and three times more than the young people of Brussels (5%).
Distracted drivers will brake harder, drive slower, cut corners shorter and zigzag. Not to mention situations in which things don’t go as planned, such as a car in front that suddenly brakes or a child that unexpectedly crosses the street.
Vias warns of the consequences. “Young people between 18 and 30 represent 16% of the driving population,” says spokesperson Stef Willems. “Yet they are involved in 31% of the accidents with casualties or injuries.” A young person is therefore twice as likely to be involved in an accident. That risk is related to the distraction.
26 meters per character
“Whoever sends a text message is 23 times more likely to have an accident,” says Willems. Texting is, on average, more deadly than a phone call. “Of course, calling is also dangerous, even hands-free, but at least you still have your eyes on the road.”
Last year, the organization Parents of Children who Died in Accidents calculated that when you write a message at a speed of 90 km/h, you are driving almost 20 meters per character ‘blind’. At 120 km/h, this is 26 meters.
Higher chance of being caught
Karin Genoe, CEO of Vias, pleads for a reform of the driving education to improve the road safety of young drivers. Also, the chance of being caught must be increased. That’s easier said than done. After all, traffic infringements have to be determined ‘on the spot’.
However, technology is improving. Unmanned cameras are now so intelligent that they can check for seat belt use and cell phone use. This is already being tested in the Netherlands.
But there always will be room for interpretation. “For example, some offenders will claim that they were tuning the radio or navigation system,” says Willems. “An extra manual check by the road police on motorcycles is therefore still necessary.”
One in four young drivers fined
Figures from Vias show that no less than 27% of Belgian drivers between 18 and 30 years old got a traffic fine in the past year. Among them, 6% even received several.
In most cases, this concerns speeding offenses (61%), followed by fines for incorrect parking (32%) and the use of cell phones behind the wheel (10%). In Brussels (37%) and Wallonia (34%) this percentage is higher than in Flanders (21%), while according to Vias the chance of being caught is much higher in Flanders.