One fifth of Flemish car users continue to manipulate mobile phone while driving

Using your mobile phone behind the wheel is prohibited by law, yet 17% of Flemish car drivers say they continue to use the device while driving. This is according to a survey of 454 motorists aged between 18 and 54 conducted on behalf of the Flemish Foundation for Transport Studies (VSV).

To alert these thick-headed drivers to its danger, the ‘Focus on the Road’ campaign is being launched again, this time not only for car drivers but also for cyclists.

Asking for trouble

In February, the VSV already organized a ‘Focus on the Road’ campaign. That this contributed to several drivers changing their behavior may be seen from a new survey commissioned by the VSV a month later. For example, 45% of the Flemish car drivers surveyed connect their mobile phones to the car every trip, compared to 38% before the campaign. Also, 35% say they use voice technology to have messages read to them, compared to 26% before the campaign.

Nevertheless, 17% of drivers say they will continue to hold their mobile phones behind the wheel despite the ban. “Using your smartphone in traffic is asking for trouble,” says Flemish Mobility Minister Lydia Peeters (Open Vld). “And that doesn’t only apply in the car, by the way, but also on the bike.”

Almost a quarter of cyclists use mobile phone

Separate figures for Flanders are lacking, but international research coordinated by the traffic safety institute Vias shows that 22,5% of Belgian cyclists sometimes check messages while riding. That figure is higher than the European average of 19%. In fact, cyclists who operate electronic devices every ride are 40% more likely to have an accident than cyclists who never do so.

Until the end of June, road posters with the slogan ‘Focus on the road, not on your mobile phone’ will be put up all over Flanders. Still, with this campaign, an extra effort will be made to remind cyclists that using their phones has a negative impact on their safety in traffic.

Specifically for cyclists, there is a YouTube video featuring an influencer and a series of online ads with messages such as ‘Steer with your bike, not your mobile’ and ‘Check traffic on the road, not your notifications’. Both the video and the ads can be seen on Facebook and TikTok.

Large-scale control operations

On Wednesday, May 24th, and Thursday, May 25th, the federal police and numerous local police zones are also once again organizing large-scale control operations on mobile phone use behind the wheel. Of course, checks are also taking place outside this period.

Anyone using their phone while driving if the device is not in a suitable holder, which isn’t a totally safe option either. They risk an immediate collection of 174 euros plus administrative costs.

When summoned to the police court, the judge can impose fines of up to 4 000 euros, and a forfeiture of the right to drive is also possible. Novice drivers must at least retake the theory or practical test before being allowed to drive again. Even stiffer penalties apply for repeat offenses.

According to Vias, the most conservative estimates assume that 5% of all road accidents in which someone is injured or killed are due to using a mobile phone behind the wheel. So that causes at least 30 deaths and 2 500 injuries in Belgium annually.


Ready to join the conversation?

You must be an active subscriber to leave a comment.

Subscribe Today

You Might Also Like

%d bloggers like this: