69% of drivers polled admit to using phone while driving in France

The figure has prompted a warning from the road security agency and an invitation to not use phones on February 6-8

A man sending a text on his smartphone while driving
Using a smartphone when driving dramatically increases the risk of an accident, research shows
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Drivers in France underestimate how dangerous it is to use a smartphone when driving, the French road security agency has warned, with two-thirds admitting to having used their phone when driving.

A poll by Axa Prévention found that 69% of drivers asked admitted to using a smartphone despite the possible risk of an accident.

Similarly, a study from last November, commissioned by motorway company la Société desautoroutes du nord et de l'est de la France (Sanef), estimated that 73% of drivers use their phones to finish work while driving.

This compares to a similar poll from 2004 – before smartphones and their wide range of apps – which found that only 22% of people said they used their phone to make calls, or send or check SMS texts when driving.

Awareness days

The results have prompted road safety agency l’association Prévention routière to invite people to stop using their smartphones from February 6-8, on the 22nd annual global World Days Without Mobile Phones.

The days, called the journées mondiales sans portable, were first coined by the French author Phil Marso.

Anne Lavaud, at the association Prévention routière, told BFMTV: “It’s a myth that you can carry on with your usual [phone] activities and, at the same time, do something very demanding in terms of mental workload. Driving means making a decision every five seconds.”

Major accident risk

Research by the World Health Organisation (WHO) has found that using a phone while driving increases the risk of an accident by four, while in 2009, an American study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) found that writing a text or email while driving increased the risk of an accident 23 times’ over.

In France, using a smartphone while driving is banned, as is the use of “hands-free” kits. Having a conversation via Bluetooth is still permitted.

Since May 2020, the law has stated that motorists who commit a road traffic offence while having a smartphone in their hand risk losing their driving licence immediately, and being banned from driving for up to a year.

However, a study carried out in 2021 by motorway group l’Association des sociétés françaises d'autoroutes (AFSA) revealed that 8% of motorists and 14% of lorry drivers hold their phone in their hand while driving on the motorway, and some even use it without looking at the road.

Figures show that around 14% of fatal accidents on French motorways in 2020 were caused by distracted driving.

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