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Cablegate: Spain's Policies On Distracted Driving

VZCZCXYZ0003
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHMD #0143 0361221
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 051221Z FEB 10 ZDK
FM AMEMBASSY MADRID
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 1863

UNCLAS MADRID 000143

SIPDIS

STATE FOR OES/S NANCY CARTER-FOSTER

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON SOCI UNDP UNGA SP
SUBJECT: SPAIN'S POLICIES ON DISTRACTED DRIVING

REF: A. STATE 06703
B. MADRID 14

1. Summary. Econoff delivered reftel A demarche to Spanish
government officials involved in the development of traffic
regulations on February 3. They said that Spain passed a
2005 law making it illegal to drive while using a mobile
communication device unless it is hands-free. The law created
a "point system" under which drivers can lose their licenses
for repeated infractions. The law, together with a related
public information campaign, has helped reduce Spanish
driving fatalities by 45 percent. Still, the percentage of
accidents related to the use of mobile communication devices
has likely risen given their increasing accessibility. Spain
is engaged in the Europe-wide Road Safety Action Plan for
2011-2020 and intends to include driver distraction as one of
the priority areas for joint action during the decade. End
Summary.

2. Econoff delivered reftel demarche to Ramon Ledesma, Deputy
Director General for Regulatory Planning for the Traffic
Directorate General, Ministry of the Interior, and Susana
Estevez, Chief of Staff for the Traffic Directorate General,
on February 3. Ledesma said that in 2005 Spain enacted Law
17/2005 to increase penalties for driving under the influence
of alcohol, driving without a safety belt, driving too fast,
driving a motorcycle without a helmet, or driving while using
a mobile communication device Qsing hands to phone, text or
manually input data into satellite navigation systems). The
law was a response to Spain having one of the poorer driving
safety records in Europe: 128 deaths per million persons in
2003 compared to an EU average of 103 deaths per million.

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3. Law 17/2005, together with additional implementing
legislation in 2007 and 2009, created a "point system"
pursuant to which drivers all start with 12 points which they
can lose based on serious driving infractions -- using a
mobile communication device loses 3 points and leads to a
200-euro fine for example -- until they reach zero points,
at which time they lose their license (points can be added
back through successfully completing classes). Ledesma
described Law 17/2005 as a great success which reduced
Spanish traffic fatalities by 45 percent by 2008 (ref B).
Ledesma said that public outreach was a critical component of
the law's success: the government used television, press,
radio, and the internet to conduct public awareness campaigns
on the law and the consequences of non-compliance.

4. Still, Ledesma admitted that while Law 17/2005 had
reduced the number of fatalities (and traffic accidents
generally), the percentage of accidents based on distracted
driving had risen. He pointed to a 2008 study that showed
that the percentage of accidents in Spain related to
distracted driving had risen from 30 percent in 1998 to 35
percent in 2006. Ledesma said the percentage of accidents
linked to distracted driving had likely increased even more
noting that a recent study showed that between 2007-2008 the
number of tickets given for cell phone use when driving rose
30 percent. He blamed the increase on the greater
accessibility of cell phones and other mobile communication
devices. Ledesma said that while the law might expand to
include the use of TV screens (by drivers), it was unlikely
to include non-electronic distractions such as smoking.

5. Estevez said that Spain was engaged in the Europe-wide
Road Safety Action Plan for 2011-2020 that is being done
under the auspices of Transport Commissioner Antonio Tajani.
She added that Spain intended to include driver distraction
as one of the priority areas for joint action during the
decade.

SOLOMONT

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