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Phone use as a driving distraction on European roads

Understanding the dangers and raising awareness about one of the most dangerous driving behaviors
Maria-Eleni Mageira
Digital Marketing & Communications Manager

Distracted driving is a growing problem and one of the most dangerous behaviors on the streets today. According to the European Commission (2022) Road safety thematic report, distraction plays a role in 5 - 25% of crashes in Europe. In 2019, distracted driving was responsible for over 3,000 fatalities and 120,000 injuries on European roads.

Main causes of distracted driving

One of the main causes of distracted driving is the use of mobile phones. Surveys in Europe and the US have shown that between 1% and 11% of drivers use their phones while driving. A study by the European Transport Safety Council found that 23% of drivers admit to using their phones while driving, and this number increases to 59% for young drivers aged 18-24. Driver reaction times are 50% slower when making calls while driving. Studies indicate that texting and driving is an even greater distraction. Other distractions include cognitive distraction, ongoing conversations with other passengers, reaching for items and devices in the vehicle, and distractions due to events that occur on the road. All of these can lead to a loss of concentration, slower reaction times, and impaired decision-making.

Types of distracted driving are: cognitive distraction, ongoing conversations, events outside the vehicle, reaching for items, phone usage.

Facts and figures regarding phone use as a distraction in Europe

A survey conducted by the European Commission found that 19% of drivers across Europe admit to having used a handheld mobile phone while driving at least once in the past month. With a core thematic on road safety performance and particularly on distraction (mobile phone use), the E-Survey of Road users’ Attitudes ESRA2 Thematic report Nr. 3, 2019, collected data from more than 35.000 road users across 32 countries.

In a recent survey conducted by YouGov, participants were asked if they were more likely to rely on an online map service on their smartphones or the built-in navigation in their vehicle's infotainment system. To this question, 39% answered that they use smartphone maps and 35% that they use the car’s systems.

Prevention of accidents caused by distracted driving

One of the most effective measures to prevent accidents caused by distracted driving is to raise awareness about its dangers. Moreover, new technologies, such as intelligent speed adaptation and collision avoidance systems, bring real-world benefits and have a lot to contribute in preventing distracted driving. According to the vehicle safety regulation to improve road safety and enable fully driverless vehicles in the EU, as of 2022 all new cars sold in the EU should be equipped with certain advanced safety systems. The rules will be applied for all new vehicles as of 7 July 2024.

In some countries, even just holding the phone while driving is illegal. In the UK, new drivers risk having their licenses completely revoked. The reality is that many people can’t bear switching their phones off while driving. To address this issue, there are solutions developed to offer integration between smartphones and car infotainment systems, to provide a unified in-cabin experience. They are designed to provide a safer way to use one’s phone while driving, by allowing them to keep their hands on the wheel and to avoid screen interaction. Some carmakers have already taken steps to integrate such services into future vehicles.

There are also mobile apps available that can disable a driver's phone while the car is in motion. At Movingdots, with the simple use of an app, we can analyze driving behaviors and raise awareness about dangerous driving conducts. For example, our app solution Coloride, has been developed by applying the paradigm of prevention to the field of motor insurance. Moreover, the drivers who have Coloride on their phones receive coaching tips to improve their future driving experience.

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