Alexandra is an Australian citizen and an experienced expat, having spent (quite a bit of) time in A...
Dutch government finds bikes and texts a dangerous mix17 September 2013, by Alexandra Gowling
When asked, around 90 per cent of Dutch road users find that smartphones and traffic do not mix, but research shows that half of cyclists sometimes read messages while riding.
This is more than drivers, of whom one in three admit to occasionally texting when they are driving.
Studies show that when they do this at 120 kilometres per hour, they drive the length of three football fields while paying no attention to the road.
Dozens of people die and hundreds are injured each year from using smartphones while on the road. It is currently forbidden to hold a smartphone while driving.
The numbers of smartphones has increased significantly over recent years, with at least eight million smartphones currently in use in the Netherlands.
In a shift, people are using their phones less for calls and more to check social media and text messages, often while they sit behind the wheel or on their bicycle.
Research shows that the risk of a traffic incident increases dramatically if someone is distracted while driving or riding with reading or writing text messages, emails and social media comments.
Yet still, 37 per cent of people who drive cars for work say they could not ignore a message on their phone, while a quarter of private drivers agreed. While they do this, they drive over the lines on their lane an average of 26 times.
That never happens while driving with two hands on the wheel or the handlebars. British research has shown that while reading and typing, 40 to 60 per cent of that time is spent looking at the screen rather than the road.
During the first International Cycling Safety Conference held last year, one Swedish researcher presented her findings on the causes of cyclist accidents, revealing one incident he had recorded where a cyclist rode into a fence because he was fiddling with his mobile phone.
The Ministry for Infrastructure presented these figures at the start of a new campaign to stop people from looking at their phones when they should be paying attention to the traffic.
The campaign is supported by various activities include Safe Traffic Netherlands, the road safety organisation for youth Team Alert and three of the Netherland’s largest telecom providers, who will send out warning messages to their clients as part of the campaign.
The campaign "Attention on the road" will run until mid-December. During this time, the police will be conducting extra checks on people looking at their phones on the roads. From the second half of October, the campaign will focus more on cyclists, especially young ones.