10 January 2010

30,000 Danes Fined For Using Mobile Phones in Cars

Mobile Reflections
The news has been abuzz this week in Denmark with the revelation that 30,000 fines were handed out in this country in 2009 for the offence of talking or texting on a mobile phone.

It's a rise of about 8000 compared to the 2008. Whether or not Danes are doing it more or the police are more actively seeking out offenders remains to be clear.

What suprised me was learning that the fine is a mere 500 kroner [$100]. That's it. That's five hours of work at the Danish minimum wage or an evening out for two at an average restaurant and a visit to the cinema. Actually, I've also learned that the fine for venturing out on the iced over lakes before it's 'safe' comes with a 500 kroner fine.

That's it. Hardly much of a deterrent.

Naturally, in light of of the press coverage the politicians are hemming and hawing and promising to 'look into it'.

In Denmark we have a kind of 'three strikes and you're out' system for traffic offences. More serious offences like speeding over certain limits gives you a 'clip' in your driving licence. Three of those and you lose it.

Why isn't using the mobile phone whilst driving included in the list of offences that result in a clip in the driving licence? Indeed, many people are mentioning now that the 30,000 number is out.

If you're motoring about inside a steel and glass box weighing in at a couple of tonnes, surely you should risk a higher penalty. Especially in light of all the studies popping up about the dangers of using mobiles.


Klaus Mohn said...

More importantly, are those people wearing their motoring helmets?
Serious for a second: mikael, ccan you explain why phone use is ok on a bike but not in a car? Honest question.

Kevin Love said...

The law is the same here in Ontario: Using a hand-held phone is illegal while driving a car, but legal while using a bike. Presumably because the danger to others is so much greater whilst piloting a 1,000 kg steel cage.

Same for drinking. It is a Canadian Criminal Code offense to drink and drive a car, but not an offense on a bike.

Mikael said...

i've never actually said that phone use is okay on a bike. but personally I think that it's fair to clamp down on people driving cars. one wrong move or a moment of distraction and they have the capacity to kill.

a person doing the same on a bicycle or a pedestrian doing the same do not possess the same capacity to cause death and destruction.

Klaus Mohn said...

Well, showing people on the phone (or with headphones etc.) on the cycle chic site can be considered an endorsement of sorts, I guess?
I definitely understand your point - bikes don't have the capacity to do much harm (unless you're some crazy Philadelphia cyclist), unlike cars... but I don't know where the argument stops then. Personally, I try to be as aware of my surroundings as I expect people using other modes of transportation to be (I mean, of course I'm aware! I'm on a bike, being aware of our surroundings is what we do, we pay extra attention because drivers and pedestrians don't - in Paris, that's often just a fact). So no phone or headphones for me.

didrik said...

In California the fine for talking on a cell phone while driving is only $20 for first offense and $50 for second offense.

It's not even the slightest bit of a deterrent. Even our police drive by talking on their cell.

Green Idea Factory said...

Is ANY mobile use illegal or just with a hand-held unit? I support the opinion that hands-free or not are roughly equally dangerous.

Regarding cycling whilst using a mobile, show me some statistics on how many injuries or deaths or even serious annoyance it has caused. My experience is that these people tend to go slow, which is fine by me.

Cargo Cult said...

As Kevin stated, a motorist driving while chatting or texting on a mobile is a risk to everyone on the street. A cyclist doing the same thing is more of a risk to themselves.

The difference in Melbourne (compared to Ontario) is that bicycles on the streets are regarded as vehicles, just like cars, and we have to obey the same laws. Thus, using a mobile or drink-riding are illegal.

Green Idea, hand-helds are not illegal here but if you are involved in an accident while using one then expect the law to come crashing down on you. The police just encourage people not to use them.

Mikael said...

it's illegal to cycle whilst using a mobile here. it's just not enforced.

Mikael said...

hands-free devices are allowed, but there was a man who was fined even though he was using one because he was driving like a madman.

and if you're going to send a text, it's hard to do it handsfree

Anonymous said...

In Austria we also have the "clip" system for driver's licences, but for some reason for speeding you do not get a "clip" (you do get one for e.g. driving drunk, or carrying children without a children's seat).

Rob said...

Using a mobile phone while driving is illegal in the UK too. However, if you are a cabinet minister, it's OK:


Melbourne Cyclist said...

Actually, whilst it's very true that bicycles are treated just like any other vehicle on the roads here in Melbourne (well, supposedly - let's not get onto the motorists who think we're not vehicles), it's not technically illegal to ride drunk - there's no drink-riding charge that the police can levy, even though there is most definitely a drink-driving charge. I don't think that they can breathalyse (sp?) a cyclist either. However, they can charge you for being drunk & disorderly or similar, so if you are being drunk & dangerous on a bike, they have the power to stop you still (which is good in my opinion. Having said which, there have been times when I've cycled home sufficiently tipsy that there is no way in hell I would've gotten behind the wheel of a car. Which is bad of me).

Re mobiles & driving - I'm hoping that there's going to be some good science looking at the reaction times here - the only thing I've seen so far was a very unscientific "study", aka interest piece in a motoring magazine. They took two of their staff, one in his fifties, one in his twenties I think, got them on a test track, and tested their braking distances at two different speeds, when talking on a mobile, when texting, and after a few drinks. IIRC, the phone use cases were worse than the drink driving ones.

I think one good deterrent to mobile use in cars could be similar to the anti-hooning laws we have here. Simply, if someone is hooning (driving like a dangerous moron in order to show off their overpowered car), the police have the power to confiscate said car (not for long enough in my opinion, but hey). So, if the police catch someone using their mobile whilst driving, they should be able to confiscate it (whole thing, including SIM). Maybe something like first offence for 24hrs, second offence for a week, third offence phone is destroyed in front of the offender...?
(well, SIM destroyed, phone wiped & sold - let's not be wasteful here)

'Xander said...

A very educational and informative article, i love the contrast between canadian culture, what i really found funny yet shocking from your article is that your minimum wage is more than double ours.