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Cablegate: Argentine Reponse to Distracted Driving Demarche


DE RUEHBU #0234 0551555
R 241554Z FEB 10



E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Argentine Reponse to Distracted Driving Demarche

REF: 10 STATE 6703

1. ESTHOff delivered reftel demarche on February 2 to Sandra
Campos, Director of Institutional Relations at Argentina's National
Road Safety Agency (ANSV). Campos provided basic information about
the law and public awareness campaigns related to distracted
driving, but said that ANSV does not have statistics for accidents
related to such behavior.

2. Argentina has a poor road safety record. According to the NGO
"Luchemos por la Vida" (Fighting for Life), 7,885 people were
killed in road accidents in 2009, an average of 22 per day.
Official ANSV statistics are not available for 2009, but in 2008
ANSV statistics indicated that 7,552 people were killed (including
pedestrians) in traffic accidents. Neither ANSV nor "Luchemos por
la Vida" provide statistics or estimates for the percentage of
accidents or deaths caused by distracted drivers.

3. Article 48(x) of National Law 24.449, passed in 1994, prohibits
driving while using any earpiece or communication system with
manual operation, and is interpreted to prohibit driving while
talking on a cell phone or text messaging. However, hands-free
devices are not covered by the law and may be used.

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4. The City of Buenos Aires legislature passed a separate law in
2007 to ban writing or reading text messages while driving.
Violators are subject to fines of between 200 and 2000 pesos (about
USD 50-500). Drivers of buses, taxis, and trucks are subject to
higher fines of 300-3000 pesos (about USD 75-750). The use of cell
phones generally while driving is also illegal, with penalties of
100-1000 pesos (about USD 25-250). Under a new system implemented
January 1, 2009, that applies only to drivers registered in the
City of Buenos Aires, driving while using a cell phone or texting
also earns the driver five points against his/her license (licenses
are revoked after 20 points are accumulated).

5. ANSV was established only in April 2008 within the Interior
Ministry, with the mission of reducing the national road accident
rate. ANSV focuses on public education campaigns on road safety
concerns, including seat belt wearing, speeding, and drunk driving.
An ANSV official told ESTHOff that the agency's public information
campaigns are currently heavily focused on distracted driving,
particularly on the use of cell phones. It has created radio,
television, and print ads specifically targeting cell phone use,
though not text messaging. In late 2009, ANSV applied for a $48
million IBRD loan to promote road safety, including enhanced road
safety monitoring. The loan application is currently under World
Bank review.

6. Argentina has already reached near cell phone saturation, with
cell phones used for the majority of communication. INDEC, the
national statistics bureau, reported that there are 50.4 million
cell phones in Argentina (for a population of 40.1 million). INDEC
also reported that in September 2009 there were 4.3 billion calls
initiated from cell phones, compared to only 1.7 billion made from
land lines.

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