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Police clamp down on illegal mobile phone use at the wheel

This weekend federal traffic police are staging the first ‘Weekend of Attention’. It’s a national drive targeting distractions behind the wheel and more specifically illegal mobile phone use.

Using a handheld mobile to make a call or text is seen as the most important distraction drivers face and one that significantly increases the risk of an accident.

Most checks are planned on the motorways. “It’s the first time a national operation of this kind is being organised” says Kristiaan Popelier of East Flemish traffic police.  “Checks will be carried out in all provinces as part of special operations and regular patrols using unmarked vehicles”.

In East Flanders police are even employing an unmarked truck that gives them a better view of what truck drivers are doing.

The police say research shows between 5% and 25% of car accidents are due to drivers being distracted.  Making handheld calls triples your risk of being involved in a fatal crash.  An estimated 5% of fatal accidents are linked to mobile phone use: 30 fatalities and 2,500 injuries a year.  More recent research also shows making legal hands-free calls or using sets fixed to the dashboard also cause considerable distraction.

The police hope this weekend’s drive will become a regular feature.  Two national operations in co-operation with local police are planned next year.

The police want to raise public awareness, but culprits also face hefty fines.  Using a handheld smartphone behind the wheel could land you a 116 euro fine in the best case.  If you are taken to court fines could total 2,000 euros plus a driving ban.

Belga

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