Using a mobile phone while driving is risky in more ways than one. / sur

Almost half of drivers in Spain admit that they use their mobile phone at the wheel

The new traffic law which came into force last month regards this as a serious distraction and the penalties are more severe than before

A. NOGUEROL Madrid

Since Spain’s new Traffic Law came into force last month, anyone caught holding or using a mobile phone while driving faces a fine of 200 euros and losing six points from their licence, because this is one of the main causes of driver distraction and they are four times more likely to have an accident. The same applies to changing a GPS route device while driving.

However, a survey carried out by the Foro de Movilidad on behalf of the Alphabet company shows that 45% of Spanish drivers admit to using their mobile while driving. With this in mind, and bearing in mind how many people will be on the roads during Easter week, the car rental company is stressing the importance of complying with the rules.

Of those who took part in the survey and said they do use their phone while driving, 66% say they do so hands-free and 3% say they never use that system. Also, 5% of drivers say they use their mobile to send WhatsApp messages while steering their vehicle, and 2% check or answer emails.

From the survey, it appears that more men than women do this: 49% compared with 40%. Looking at age groups, drivers aged between 31 and 45 are more likely to use their smartphone, as 51% of those in this age range admitted that they do so. The figure for drivers between 18 and 30 was similar, although they tend to send more WhatsApp messages (8% of that age group).

Satellite navigation systems

Many people use satellite navigation systems to find their way around, and they can be very useful but it is essential that the routes are set before beginning a journey or the vehicle should pull off the road if the GPS needs to be re-set, because the law treats this as a similar offence to the use of a mobile phone while driving.

Under the new law, drivers must not hold a mobile phone in their hand while at the wheel, even if they are stationary such as in a traffic jam or waiting at traffic lights. Their use is only permitted when the engine is switched off and the vehicle is parked off the road in a place where it does not interfere with traffic flow.