A recent European study into the use of mobile phones whilst driving highlights some alarming results: 26% of Belgians read or send messages on their mobile phones whilst driving. The European average is 22%.
Furthermore, 17% of Belgians make phone calls without using hands-free appliances. This is in spite of Bluetooth connection being far more common in modern cars. This may go some way in explaining the frightening revelation that one Belgian in 10 has either had or was very close to having a road accident because of using a mobile phone whilst driving.
The Vias institute for mobility estimates that the use of mobile phones whilst driving is responsible for at least 50 deaths and 4,500 injuries on Belgian roads every year. 108,000 fines were handed out in 2020 for using phones whilst driving – an average of 300 each day! These are the highest figures since 2016 and also in a year when there were fewer controls due to the pandemic.
In response to these concerning results, Vias has teamed up with Baloise Insurance in a new information campaign encouraging drivers to switch their phones off when behind the wheel. Belgium’s Nina Derwael, Olympic gold medallist in gymnastics this year, is the face of the campaign.
An advertisement broadcast on various television channels (as well as on the radio) shows Derwael practising on high bars in the gym when she receives a call from a friend. The gymnast takes the call before losing her balance and falling onto the mattress below. Yet video effects make Derwael’s fall turn into a car crash and the clip finishes with the slogan: “Hands on the wheel, phone switched off.”
Marketing director for Baloise Insurance Bart Walraet explained that “As an insurer, we follow a strategy of prevention in order to improve road security. In the same way that we take efforts to discourage drink driving, we hope that this campaign will highlight the dangers of driving while using a mobile phone. The message is very clear: ‘Hands on the wheel, phone switched off.’ Yet on most smartphones, there is also the ‘Do not disturb’ function to stop calls and show that you are driving.”