Driver distraction is a significant risk factor in traffic. Research has shown that car drivers are engaged in distracting activities for about half of all driving time. Common sources of driver distraction include using a mobile phone or other device, adjusting in-vehicle infotainment systems, interacting with passengers and eating. These are among the findings of the European Road Safety Observatory’s new thematic report on driver distraction.
Activities that require the driver to avert their gaze from the road, such as dialling or texting, are particularly dangerous. Distracted drivers can swerve more, have longer reaction times, and often miss information from the traffic environment, including other road users.
The mobile phone is one of the most common sources of driver distraction. Nearly one in three European drivers admits to having used a handheld mobile phone for conversation, and nearly one in four admits to having done so to check texts or social media. Young people are more likely to use a mobile phone while driving than older drivers. Overall, using a hand-held phone increases the crash risk by around 2.5 times.
The report also highlights effective measures against distracted driving, which include: strict enforcement of bans on the use of handheld devices, including through the use of smart cameras: building rumble strips into road infrastructure; awareness campaigns; driver education through licensing; and in-vehicle technology that warns or intervenes when departing from a lane or approaching too close to a vehicle in front.
The EU has set a 50% reduction target for road deaths and serious injuries by 2030, as set out in the EU road safety policy framework 2021-2030.
Road traffic rules and their enforcement, including on the use of mobile phones behind the wheel, remain largely the responsibility of EU Member States. All European countries prohibit hand-held mobile phone use while driving a motor vehicle.
Today’s report is part of the Commission’s efforts to promote safe mobility across the EU. Additional periodic research publications by the European Road Safety Observatory are under preparation, each focusing on a key road safety topic.
- Publication date
- 11 January 2024
- Directorate-General for Mobility and Transport