68 percent of Estonian drivers use their phones while driving, according to a recent study.
Those who use their phones while at the wheel do so primarily for making calls, or as a navigational device, but listening to music, messaging and visiting websites were also common practises the study, conducted by If Insurance (If Kindlustus), said.
If Insurance Claim Department head Taavi Kiibus said that when looking at insurance claims, it is clear that people are doing secondary things while driving. Many accidents have happened only because the driver wasn't paying attention to traffic.
"53 percent of drivers make calls while driving, and a quarter are not using the hands-free system. Forty-five percent are using their phones as navigation aids - yes, phones can help you navigate, but this can also distract attention. Taking into account that 17 percent of drivers select music from their phone while driving, and five percent are sending messages, with three visiting websites, we can see that drivers are engaged in far too many secondary activities," Kiibus went on.
According to Hannes Kullamäe, head of the Northern Prefecture Traffic Supervision Center, drivers cannot perceive how much mobile phone use behind the wheel inhibits an ability to drive and causes dangerous traffic situations.
"When a driver's attention is occupied with other activities, his response speed and sharp field of vision are hampered. Serious accidents will continue to occur if people do not realize the dangers of extraneous activities like mobile phone use," Kullamäe said.
The Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) confirms that it sees people using mobile phones while driving on a daily basis, noting that it is as dangerous as drink-driving, but lacks the legal recourse. "Smartphone 'intoxication' is at least as dangerous when in traffic as alcohol intoxication. It is an addiction which can't be treated with a fine, however. We should become more aware of the problem," Kullamäe added.
The study revealed that 25-44-year-olds are the worst offenders (74 percent of drivers); these are followed by the 45-54-year-old age-group (67 percent).
Men are using phones more actively (73 percent) than women (63 percent), the survey reported.
The study also revealed that while in the Baltic States, drivers use phones as a navigation device in a similar way, Estonian drivers make more phone calls than their southern neighbors Latvians and Lithuanians, and listen to more music on the phone too.
If is a pan-Baltic insurance firm.
About 1,000 people from each of the three Baltic States took part in the If Kindlustus survey.
Editor: Roberta Vaino