More than 70% of people use mobile phones while driving. At the same time, they acknowledge this is a serious problem. Observations of habits of road traffic participants show that the habit of using mobile phones while driving has been on a rise in the past five years.
«Our survey shows that drivers who are ‘busy on the phone’ cause accidents while making calls (72%), exchanging text messages (43%), and surfing social media (17%). On top of that, the majority of those drivers are young and inexperienced,» says CSDD board chairman Andris Lukstiņš.
Combining driving with talking on the phone is like playing Russian roulette, says cognitive behavioural psychotherapist Marija Ābeltiņa: «Multi-tasking is an illusion. It is not about doing multiple tasks simultaneously, but switching from one task to another or putting some tasks on ‘auto pilot’. This creates a feeling to doing multiple tasks simultaneously. We switch focus from driving to talking.»
«Too often use of smart devices results of loss of control over a car, drifting to another lane, exceeding speed limits or slow driving,» says State Police Road Traffic Safety Office Chief Normunds Krapsis, stressing that drivers zombified by mobile phones create dangerous situations on the road and putting at risk the lives of others. Traffic security specialists in Latvia and the world say 20-30% of all road accidents are caused by drivers talking on the phone while driving their car.
The survey performed by CSDD and market and social studies agency Latvijas Fakti shows that the most effective measures to force residents to change their habits include increased control on roads (34%), increased fines (27%) and adoption of technologies that block usage of phones while driving (23%).
In an attempt to solve this problem, State Police has commenced additional control activities. Not outlined police cars with 360 degree cameras will soon be stationed on state roads. If a driver uses a phone in their immediate vicinity, cameras will register this violations and the driver will be sent a notification about the applied fine later. Additionally, the fine for using a phone while driving will be increased to 25-100 euros. This is significantly below what other European countries have: fines reach 200 euros in Spain, Denmark, Finland and Britain; 420 euros in Netherlands.