Smartphone kills more and more younger drivers
Unappropriate smartphone use seems to be the third big killer of younger drivers. The other two are the obvious ones: alcohol and drugs behind the wheel and excess speed.
17% of the people killed in traffic last year in Belgium were between 18 and 24 years old, an increase of 53% compared to the year before (98 against 64). Traffic safety institute Vias sees the distraction due to smartphone use as the main reason.
“17% of the death toll on our roads are younger people from 18 to 24 years old, while this group represents only 10% of the entire population. That’s alarming,” says Benoit Godart from Vias.
How did Vias conclude that smartphone use is an essential factor? Younger people seem to be far more involved in chain collisions and rear-end collisions. “It’s the first time we see this phenomenon,” says Godart, “it’s most probable that smartphone distraction plays a key role here.”
Mobility-expert Dirk Lauwers (Universities of Ghent and Antwerp) is not surprised. “Before, we talked about two major reasons for the death toll in traffic, (ab)use of drugs and alcohol, and speeding. Now we can add the use of the smartphone.”
“In the US, we already saw a lot of studies published on this topic,” Lauwers continues. The University of Utah calculated that using the cell phone behind the wheel quadruples the accident risk. Texting even leads to eight times more risk of an accident.
Young, inexperienced, and male
Another critical parameter is age and experience. “Eight persons aged around twenty out of 1 000 inhabitants are involved in a car accident. That’s, by far, the highest ratio in all age categories.”
One cliché doesn’t stand the check: according to Vias, female drivers are surely not more dangerous than males, on the contrary. “Younger men are causing more accidents than females. 64% of the youngsters involved in an accident are male. Once older than 24, the equation stabilizes around 58%.”
Is there a cure?
There is no direct solution to this problem. “There is no miracle solution,” says Godart from Vias. “Nevertheless, a lot has been initiated lately. Driving lessons have been adapted. Apart from that, we are also big advocates of a zero-tolerance for alcohol and drugs behind the wheel.”
Prohibiting the use of a smartphone in the car is no adequate solution, thinks professor Lauwers. He sees more use in better enforcement of not using it behind the wheel, and more adequate campaigns.