Distracted drivers named top cause of accidents

The mobile phone - a big cause of distraction while driving (posed scene) SRF screenshot

Most road traffic accidents in Switzerland last year were caused by distracted drivers who were texting or phoning at the wheel.

This content was published on November 9, 2018 - 11:12
Keystone-SDA/SRF/Swiss Council for Accident Prevention/ilj

In 2017, 1,111 people died or were severely wounded due to distracted drivers, the Swiss Council for Accident Prevention said External linkin a traffic safety and accident report. This amounts to three people every day.

The mobile phone was the biggest offender – with making calls or texting named as the biggest reasons for drivers taking their eyes of the road.

“Mobile phone use is playing an ever-bigger role in traffic accidents,” Brigitte Buhmann, director of the accident prevention council, told Swiss public television, SRFExternal link, on Thursday. She believes that in reality the number is actually a lot higher because often people don’t always admit exactly why they were distracted after they have caused an accident.

Below is some footage taken by the Zurich cantonal police, used in an awareness campaign.

YouTube/Kantonspolizei Zürich

It’s a CHF100 ($100) fine in Switzerland for driving while phoning. Texting at the wheel is considered a more severe traffic offence: the driving licence can be taken away, fines and a prison sentence are also possible, according to SRF.


In canton St Gallen, police hand out up to 2,500 fines for phoning while driving a year. Police say they are seeing more and more drivers on the phone. “We often wonder why the person has not bought a hands-free device which allows them to make calls with impunity,” a police spokesman told SRF.

The report found that both men and women were guilty of being distracted drivers, but people aged 18-24 were the most likely perpetrators.

Almost as many accidents were caused by failing to yield the right of way: in three-quarters of cases drivers were at fault. Pedestrians accounted for 40% of traffic accident deaths, the accident prevention council said.

Speeding caused two severe injuries a day, alcohol one per day. Overall there are far fewer accidents due to speeding and drinking, but they are often more severe in their outcome, a statement explained.

In total, 3,654 people were severely injured in traffic accidents in 2017 and 230 died. The accident prevention council said the number of deaths was 14 more than in 2016 but in general there had been a downwards trend in road deaths over the past decade.

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