One in four Walloons admit to texting and driving

One in four Walloons admit to texting and driving
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A quarter of Walloons send text or e-mails while driving, albeit occasionally, a study by the Walloon Agency for Road Safety (AWSR) has revealed.

The statistic is alarming. As explained by the AWSR, “1 SMS = 200m without seeing the road.”

Even at low speeds (50kmph), taking your eyes off the road for even one second means that you travel 14 metres blind. At high speeds (120kmph), this increases to 33 metres – almost two and half times longer than the length of the average lorry.

According to the AWSR, distracted driving accounts for up to 25% of accidents on Belgium’s roads.

"1 SMS = 200m without seeing the road." Credit: Walloon Agency for Road Safety

This can come in many different forms. Be it rubbernecking, looking at a car entertainment system, eating at the wheel, driving with a hot coffee in between your legs, or even blasting music so loud that you cannot hear traffic noise around you.

By far the largest source of distraction though are mobile phones. One in five Walloons use their telephone behind the wheel, at least occasionally. One in four occasionally sends texts while driving.

Young men

More men than women use their phones while driving and 58% of men admit to driving with their phone in their hand. Young men are, by far, the worst offenders. Almost half (47%) of 18-34 year-old Belgian men text while driving compared to just 3% of those aged over 55.

Even more alarming: one in twenty Walloons even admitted to taking part in video conferences behind the wheel. For executives, this figure rises to one in six.

“This is especially dangerous: not only does it take the driver’s attention away from the road by forcing him to focus on the conversation and possibly respond, it also stops him looking at the road."

In 2021, an Ohio Senator was reprimanded by officials for attending a state legislature meeting while driving his car, attempting to mask his whereabouts with a green screen filter.

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Nearly 63% of Belgian drivers use some kind of car kit, which the ASWR says is a “positive signal.” Hands-free car kits offer a legal solution to using your telephone, but they are not necessarily safe.

“Even with this technology, having a conversation on the telephone while driving makes us less attentive to the road and therefore triples the risk of accidents,” the ASWR reminds.

A new campaign by the Flemish Traffic Foundation (VSV) encourages Belgians to “ignore your boss” and not use their phone while driving. Belgium has massively increased penalties for using the phone while driving, and it is even now possible to lose your licence for doing so.

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