Bloomberg News

More U.S. Drivers Distracted by Phone Talk Than Europeans

March 14, 2013

Europeans Don’t Chat on Phones Behind Wheel as Much as Americans

A driver makes a phone call while navigating an obstacle course during the Toyota Driving Expectations Teen Defensive Driving Course in Denver, Colorado. Photographer: AAron Ontiveroz/The Denver Post. Getty Images

Drivers in seven European countries are less likely to talk on their mobile phones while behind the wheel than Americans who engage in the dangerous practice, health authorities said.

Europeans who used their mobile phones while driving ranged from 59 percent in Portugal to 21 percent in the U.K., according to a report yesterday from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sixty-nine percent of American drivers surveyed reported using their phones within the previous 30 days. The study found 31 percent of U.S. drivers read or sent text messages of e-mails while driving.

In the U.S., 3.5 million people suffer serious injuries in traffic crashes each year and an estimated 24 percent of those accidents involve mobile telephone use, according to the National Safety Council, an injury prevention nonprofit group based in Itasca, Illinois. The U.S. has the same number or fewer mobile phones per 100 people as the other countries in the survey, according to The World Bank.

“The cell phone can be a fatal distraction for those who use it while they drive,” CDC Director Tom Frieden said in a statement. “Driving and dialing or texting don’t mix.”

Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands, and Spain were the other countries included in the survey.

No. 2 Portugal

Portugal came closest to the U.S. in talking on the phone while driving and texting behind the wheel. Fifty-nine percent of Portuguese drivers reported talking on their mobile phone at least once in 30 days and 31 percent texted or sent e-mail messages while driving, according to the report.

The data was collected in two different surveys in 2011. No significant difference existed between men and women though younger drivers used their phones more often than older ones, the CDC said.

In the U.S., there were 106 mobile phone subscriptions per 100 people in 2011 compared with 131 subscriptions per 100 people in the U.K., according to The World Bank. Only France had fewer than the U.S. at 105 subscriptions per 100 people.

While mobile phone use doesn’t vary widely in the U.S. or European countries, differences in mobile phone laws may not explain the variation in use while driving either, the CDC report said.

“While U.S. states differ in their cell phone use laws, nearly all European countries have hand-held bans in place, yet there is still a large variation in European estimates,” the report said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Anna Edney in Washington at aedney@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Reg Gale at rgale5@bloomberg.net


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