Drivers in France warned over phone use while driving

Drivers in France are being warned over using their mobile phone while driving, with rising numbers of motorway accidents being linked to illegal mobile use while on the road.

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Motorway management company L’Association Professionnelle des Sociétés Françaises d’Autoroutes (ASFA) raised the alarm this week, after revealing that 670 of its motorway workers had been injured in accidents - including two fatally - in the past five years, while completing obvious works on the roads.

The number of accidents is also on the “worrying” rise, it said.

Christophe Boutin, executive director at AFSA, said: “These staff members were working in a completely visible manner. Which therefore means that these drivers were not looking at the road and were in the middle of doing something else.”

In a new poll, almost two in five (37%) French people admitted to having used their mobile phone in their hand while driving, with some even saying they tended to do it more on the motorway, “because it’s safer”, the AFSA reported.

This figure rises to 60% for drivers under the age of 35.

One in three people admitted to taking and making calls, reading or writing text messages, or checking voicemails, while driving.

This was in sharp contrast to the 93% who said they were well aware of the dangers of other driving distractions, such as drinking, drug-taking, or excess tiredness.

While almost two thirds (69%) said they keep their phone in their bag while driving, 43% said they keep it on the passenger seat, and 15% on their lap. Half of people aged 35 and under said they found it difficult to go without looking at their phone for more than an hour.

Laurent Karila, president of addiction agency SOS Addictions, said: “Young people are ‘digital natives’. They respond the most to notifications. Smartphones create a dependence, to which experts have now given a word: ‘nomophobia’ - ‘anxiety of weak battery or signal’. There is also ‘athazagoraphobia’ - the fear of not being ‘Liked’, ‘Retweeted’ or ‘Shared’.”

In response, when asked about solutions to the problem, more than two thirds (76%) said they would welcome harsher sanctions for device use when driving; while 63% said that more prevention and awareness was needed.

AFSA director Mr Boutin said: “Car manufacturers have imagined a screen that takes over that of the phone, but limits its function to GPS and music. But not all manufacturers are game. Some are proposing [solutions] that will [enable drivers] to have their text messages read out, or to dictate them. We must increase awareness and prevention.”

The French Parliament is currently examining a law that would mean that any driver stopped for using their phone while driving would risk having their licence taken away on the spot - especially if it is their second recent road infraction.

Currently, driving while speaking into your phone or using headphones can cost offenders up to €135 and three points from their licence.

The only system allowed is a hands-free, Bluetooth-connected set, which can be controlled entirely by voice (so the driver does not have to take their eyes off the road to use it).

Earlier this month, Emmanuel Barbe, interministerial delegate from road safety agency La Sécurité Routière, said: “We hope that this very serious threat [losing your licence] will make drivers think again, and encourage drivers to use tools to disconnect their phone, turn it off, or put it in the glove box or the boot - all of the measures we can use to fight against this.”

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