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Germany: Police Raise Awareness on Smart Phone Use Behind Wheel

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German police have started systematic checks on the country’s roads and streets. Today, a total of 11,000 officers will be stopping drivers who use their smart phones while steering their vehicles. Also they will talk to innocent road users about the dangers connected to this kind of behavior.

The announced police checks will take place in all 16 provinces. Apart from drivers, cyclists will be checked as well. They often get distracted by listening to loud music. Many are not able to hear the traffic around them for the same reason. This leads to accidents too.

All over Germany, the Interior Ministers in Germany’s federal states also had information stands set up in cities and towns, in order to raise awareness. Statistics show that more than in one fourth of all severe car accidents in the country, a negligent use of information technology is to blame. Those are more than 100,000 accidents per year.

Police say, drivers should be sending SMS or other messages only while their vehicle is parked and the engine is not running. The same applies to operating navigation systems and other devices. Even pedestrians are being asked not to stare at their screens while walking, since the risk for accidents increases substantially for those who do.

Heinz Albert Stumpen from the German Police University says, distraction as a cause of accidents was chronically underestimated. In Austria, this aspect played a role in every third fatal accident, he told the press. According to international studies, more than half of all accidents have to do with distraction of some kind.

Typing on a smart phone is as dangerous as driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The risk of causing an accident while concentrating on a smart phone or similar devices is four times as high as under normal circumstances. Police say, looking at a cell phone for a second at a speed of 50 km/h means “blind flying” over a distance of 14 meters. At a speed of 130 km/h, that distance is 36 meters.

Cell phones are not the only distractions. Police say some truck drivers tend to watch movies while driving. Or they read newspapers and cook their coffee while moving their heavy vehicles along the German Autobahn. Parents who travel with their children should make sure the driver does not attempt to pick up teddy bears or other toys they drop.

What pedestrians are concerned, they are in danger of walking into the path of trams while listening to loud music or looking at their devices. Police officers will stop them too, in order to talk to them about the subject of distraction in traffic.

For drivers, offenses are expensive. Since last year, the fine for looking at a smart phone while driving in Germany is 100 Euro. Also offenders will get one point in the register of traffic offenders. Cyclists who look at their device while on the move will have to pay 55 Euro, if they are being caught. Thousands of offenses of this kind are being registered every year. During the first half of 2018, 4300 drivers and cyclists were fined.

Today’s police checks started at 6 a.m. and will continue throughout the day.

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