In the last five years, 83,069 motorists were caught by police using their mobile phones while driving, an average of well over 16,000 a year, or two every hour of every day, Marios Stavrou, president of non-governmental organisation REACTION Youth for the Prevention said on Wednesday.
He was speaking at a press conference for the launch of a major information campaign on driving and mobile phone use which will run islandwide from April 6 until April 29.
“The use of mobile phones while driving quadruples the risk of being involved in a road crash,” Stavrou said.
“The problem is extremely big, especially among younger age groups who use the phones not only to call and send messages, but also to engage in social networking,” he added.
Stavrou said that in recent years around one in three fatal accidents in Cyprus are caused by distraction, and by extension careless and negligent driving.
“If the driver of a car for example surfs the internet for a few seconds while driving it may not have immediate consequences for the driver … but for the rider of a motorbike who cuts the road in front of him it will have dire and immediate consequences!” the president of REACTION stressed.
A very small quantitative survey REACTION conducted with a random sample of 175 students in private universities in Nicosia showed very significant findings, Stavrou said.
More than 30 per cent of respondents had sent a message at least once while driving on the highway. Close to 45 per cent had sent text messages while driving in the city. Almost 27 per cent said they had social media at least once while driving, while 14 per cent said they took a selfie and/or a video while driving.
Nearly 12 per cent said they don’t consider cell phone use as dangerous while driving 2and this is the most worrying,” Stavrou said.
“It is unreasonable that to use a mobile phone while driving is penalised with a simple payment and some penalty points. It is proven that the lack of attention can result in slight to fatal road collisions hence the fine of €85 is very small,” he said.
“In Greece for example, apart from the fine for using a mobile phone , it also results in the suspension of the driving licence for several days. In Sweden, in 2010 around 10,000 people lost their driving licences for using a mobile phone and generally for careless driving.”