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Eightfold Increase of Fines for Phone Use While Driving

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Eightfold Increase of Fines for Phone Use While Driving

Selfie.

Photo: Páll Stefánsson.

With almost 500 people ticketed each year for using their phones while driving, some say that current fines are too low to make an impact, reports RÚV. The current fine is ISK 5,000 [USD 48], although this amount is discounted to ISK 3,750 [USD 36] if the ticket is paid within a month of being issued.

“I just think it’s such a small amount that people don’t care. And when there’s a situation like this in traffic, where people don’t care whether they’re fined or not, then any sane person can see it’s not working,” says Árni Friðleifsson, an inspector in the traffic division of the capital area police.

The state prosecutor agrees. In June, he sent a proposal for increased fines for traffic violations to the Minister of Transportation. He suggested that fines should increase in line with changing price levels, but advocated for a significantly increased fine for driving while using a cell phone—up to ISK 40,000 [USD 386], roughly eight times the current fee.

The reason stated for such a dramatic increase is the proliferation of such infractions, as well as the inherent danger involved in driving while using a phone. The state prosecutor says he believes that further regulations are needed to address not only talking on the phone while driving, but also sending text messages and using the internet, and says that these rules should extend to other electronic devices as well.

Although it can be difficult to prove that phone use was a factor in car accidents, Árni says he has observed this firsthand. “…[W]hen traffic has gotten slow, then almost every other driver’s head looks down and things get even slower. People are just answering emails and not paying attention to traffic.”

“We’ve seen it all too often—rear-end collisions are really common because people are simply on the phone and are paying attention to something happening there.”

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