A detailed investigation into all the modern devices that can take a driver’s attention off the road is under way throughout the EU at the moment.
The findings, to be published towards the end of the year, are expected to put pressure on national governments to update laws on what is permitted while driving.
The study is also looking at the road habits of pedestrians and cyclists, as there are increasing reports blaming the use of smartphones for fatal accidents.
While the number of fatal road accidents dropped slightly in the EU last year, they increased in a number of countries, including Ireland, where the 43 deaths amounted to a 4% increase on 2013.
EU experts said police are reporting an increased number of accidents when people are using smartphones while on the road. “We know there are serious problems and we would like to understand the dangers better,” said one expert.
In the past few years, thanks to a wide range of measures, the number of deaths on EU roads has dropped by almost a fifth.
However, the number of fatalities among pensioners has fallen by just 5%. People aged 65 or over account for almost half of the number of people killed while walking or on bicycles.
“Cyclists and pedestrians are making up an increasing percentage of the deaths on the roads, and we have to look carefully at this,” said the expert.
Countries can learn from each other and the report notes examples, including in from Ireland, of education programmes on intoxication and pedestrians.
In the past, younger people made up a disproportionate number of road fatalities, but this has changed, thanks to targeted messages and programmes.
Generally, European roads are becoming more safe, especially compared to other parts of the world, such as the US, where people are twice as likely to die on the roads as in the EU.
The number of traffic deaths has reduced more than the number of accidents, and the report says this is partly due to better-built roads and infrastructure; automated cameras to catch those speeding, or breaking red lights; and technical improvements in vehicles.
These include in-built warnings in vehicles about seatbelts, though it is still not mandatory in all EU countries for backseat passengers to wear seatbelts.
Other measures recommended to help reduce fatalities include improved driving skills, backed by not giving people a full driving licence immediately after passing their test, but having them revisit a driving school a number of times over a year or so to further improve their skills.
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