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Prosecutors Ask Police to Investigate Mobile Use Before Traffic Incidents

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Combining statistical data from the DGT and the National Institute of Toxicology, there has been a consistent growth in road traffic incidents in Spain since 2015, compared to the previous descending trend from 2005.

According to the research carried out by both institutions, the main causes are the deliberate violation, by drivers, of road traffic legislation that is in place to protect the life and physical integrity of everyone.

According to statistics, inappropriate speed is present in 30% of traffic incidents that occur on Spanish roads. It is fair to say that almost all drivers will exceed the maximum permitted speed on all journeys. But the data shows that distractions caused by the use of mobile phones are the main cause of incidents on Spanish roads.

Whereas penalties for using a mobile phone can vary depending on the severity of the resulting incident, it is still the case that many drivers underestimate how much their concentration is diverted by using a mobile, especially since their use has also undergone a stark transformation from the times of a simple conversational tool to the more frequent use of social media and messaging, through voice, text and photographs.

Such is the distraction caused by these devices, even the use of hands free is  being investigated as this too seems failing, not only as many drivers believe that simply holding the device on speaker constitutes hands free, which it does not, and the use of in-ear devices are already banned.

The special public prosecutor of Road Safety, Bartolomé Vargas has suggested de-linking the increase in the incident rate due to the increase in the number of journeys, but rather to driver attitude.

Vargas sent an official letter to the traffic police of the national territory to investigate mobile phone calls before traffic incidents, so that they can be taken into account as “serious imprudence” due to the inattention of the driver. This would entail prison sentences of between one and four years – as reckless homicide – in addition to the loss of the licence for another six; and if they are injuries, the penalty can be up to three years, with the deprivation of the licence for four years.

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Vargas was questioned whether the investigation of the latest movements of the mobile could go against the Law of Data Protection, to which he replied that it required, “a legal examination… something we are working on.” He stressed that the inquiries will only be made in the event of an incident, culminating in a report that details the duration of a call, the frequency of use in the journey in which the incident occurred or even if they have used apps such as WhatsApp. At the moment there are other ways, such as the testimonies of witnesses. Vargas put the use of the mobile in a high position when it comes to analysing “the main cause of accidents” and denied that the increase in deaths in traffic incidents “is due to the improvement of the economic situation or the number of trips. “it is an excuse,.” He says, “It was one of the factors that the DGT pointed out in its 2017 accident balance, a year in which 1,830 people died, 20 more than in 2016, 141 more than in 2015.” Our country has gone from being the fifth country with the lowest road casualties in Europe to the eighth in four years (with a rate of 39 deaths per million inhabitants)”. The Public Prosecutor’s Office considers that of the 600 road deaths that occurred due to them leaving the road, “a good part” was caused by the use of mobile phones.

Last year alone, more than 88,000 complaints were made for handling these devices and 33,800 for other distractions at the wheel. The hands-free or the navigator puts in the spotlight the connected car, which requires these and other tools to operate fully, and in turn is the passport for the achievement of the autonomous vehicle.

In 2017, 81,951 convictions were issued for road traffic offences, of which one in three was serious enough to constitute a crime related to road safety.

Of all the sentences, 51,085 convictions are for driving offences under the influence of alcohol and toxic substances. According to data from the National Institute of Statistics, one third of the drivers who died in Spain during the past year, around 600 people had consumed alcohol or some type of narcotic drug. E l 75% of them had an alcohol level to 1.2 g / L and 49% exceeded 2 g / L.

Around 90% of the total sentences are dictated in accordance which allows immediate compliance with the 55,890 penalties recorded for the deprivation of the right to drive and 2,075 driving licence losses.

The commitment of society is crucial to end the “quintet” of death, that is, use of the mobile phone at the wheel, speeding or previous consumption of alcohol, drugs and psychoactive drugs.

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