In Belgium, 10% of traffic accidents are at least in part due to distraction while driving.
This percentage figure represents 4,000 accidents in which people are injured or killed, it emerged from a survey presented on Wednesday by the Vias institute. The main culprit: The smartphone.
Vias questioned 6,000 Belgians on their behaviour when driving over the past month. It appears from the survey that nearly 10% of drivers have read a SMS message or other such information while driving over the course of the previous month. Additionally, 7% admit making a phone call without a hands-free kit while driving.
Among the drivers at fault, the 18-34 age group are particularly well represented: one young person in six admits to sending messages during a car journey and one in five to reading them. Drivers in this age group are also twice as numerous as the 35-54 age group in being aware of such behaviour.
Regional variations are equally challenging, the Vias institute emphasises. With 13% of drivers partially distracted, Brussels residents are nearly twice as distracted as those in Flanders, 7% of whom use their telephone while driving. The Wallonians follow with 8% of them being careless at the wheel.
The use of the smartphone is not just limited to car drivers: nearly one young cyclist in three reads or sends messages while using their bike. In addition, 52% of them travel while listening to music wearing ear-pieces or a helmet. Although not banned, it is nonetheless high-risk behaviour because it distracts the cyclist, who is no longer aware of traffic sounds.
In order to make the population more aware of the risks incurred by such behaviour, Vias launched a campaign on Wednesday called “Wheel in hand, mobile phone switched off #ToujoursAttentif”, sponsored by Nina Derwael, two-time gymnastics champion and Belgian sportswoman of the year.
An advertisement lasting about thirty seconds featuring the athlete injuring herself after using her phone during training, will be shown on all national television channels.
The Vias institute will also be present at the Brussels Motor Show, where it will have a stand and a visual display promoting its campaign.