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Cablegate: Texting While Driving Illegal in Peru; Relevant Stats Likely


DE RUEHPE #0228 0351848
R 041847Z FEB 10



E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Texting while driving illegal in Peru; relevant stats likely


1. SUMMARY: Text messaging while driving is illegal in Peru under
its law that prohibits the use of cell phones while driving. While
some statistics are available relating to Peru road accidents, the
Vice Minister expressed doubt that any estimates about accidents
due to messaging would be reliable, given that drivers likely would
not admit to texting if this was the proximate cause of a crash.

2. Economic Counselor delivered reftel demarche to Vice Minister
of Transportation Hjalmar Marangunich Rachumi of the Ministry of
Transportation and Communications explaining the significant and
increasing risk in the use of text messaging while driving.

3. Marangunich advised that Peruvian law prohibits the use of cell
phones while driving and that logically, text messaging is included
in this prohibition. He qualified that "hands free" cell phone
usage is not prohibited while driving within Peru, at least in
practice, noting that this is based on the concept that the driver
should keep both hands on the wheel. (He added that keeping both
hands available for driving is also an underlying reason that Peru
prohibits the application of makeup while driving.)

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4. As a new vice minister who took his position in December,
Marangunich took the opportunity to explain the functions of his
ministry, and noted that, similar to the United States, various
governmental entities have responsibility for different highways
and roads. Nevertheless, the restriction on cell phone usage
applies to all roads in Peru.

5. Marangunich promised to forward some statistics available on
accidents and their causes. But he advised that beyond obvious
scenarios (such as where a driver has been killed while talking on
the phone and the other person on the call hears the accident),
most drivers tend not to attribute accidents to their personal cell
phone usage. He also expressed his opinion that the most critical
problem with drivers in Peru is that many do not honor stoplights.

6. BACKGROUND: Three major telecommunications companies offer
cellular phone service in Peru, Moviestar, Nextel and Claro.
Overall coverage encompasses 88.6 percent of all political
districts. All three companies offer text messaging services.
Currently estimated at 24 million cell phone lines in the country,
this sector grew rapidly in the second half of the last decade.
Between 2005 and 2009 cellular phone lines grew from 5.583 million
to 23.480 million, with a current market penetration of
approximately 80 percent. END BACKGROUND.

7. COMMENT: Peru's level of traffic fatalities is indeed a matter
of serious concern. According to the World Health Organization's
Global Status on Road Safety, 2009, Peru ranks second to Venezuela
in the Western Hemisphere in road death rates (at 21.5 per 100,000
population versus 21.8 for Venezuela and 13.9 for the United
States). However, given the aggressiveness with which many
Peruvians drive on congested roads, most drivers understand that
unexpected movements will occur several times each minute. While
texting likely takes place, it probably is not practiced nearly as
much as in countries where drivers think the roads are safe. In
addition to overall aggressiveness of drivers in Peru, other
commonly cited concerns alcohol consumption (blamed for 10.8
percent of deaths per the WHO) and failure to yield to pedestrians.
These likely plague Peru's roadways more than accidents due to text

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