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Viewing cable 10REYKJAVIK28, DISTRACTED DRIVING DEMARCHE RESPONSE - ICELAND

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
10REYKJAVIK28 2010-02-17 16:04 2011-01-13 05:05 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Reykjavik
VZCZCXRO5931
PP RUEHIK
DE RUEHRK #0028 0481646
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 171646Z FEB 10
FM AMEMBASSY REYKJAVIK
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 4288
INFO RUEHZN/ENVIRONMENT SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
UNCLAS REYKJAVIK 000028 
 
SIPDIS 
 
OES/S FOR N. CARTER-FOSTER 
DEPARTMENT FOR WHA/CAR - KAREN JO MCISAAC 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: ECON SOCI UNDP UNGA IC
SUBJECT: DISTRACTED DRIVING DEMARCHE RESPONSE - ICELAND 
 
REF: STATE 06703 
 
1. (U)  Emboff delivered points contained in reftel to Emil 
Hreggvidsson,  Director of the Department of International Affairs 
at the Icelandic Ministry of Foreign Affairs, on January 15.  In 
order to obtain the requested information, Emboff also spoke with 
Sigurdur Helgason, an official at the Icelandic Ministry of 
Transportation. 
 
2. (U)  According to Helgason, there is an Icelandic law in place 
that explicitly bans the use of a cell phone while driving.  Signed 
in 1987, and amended in 2001, the law (Article 47 of the Icelandic 
Traffic Code) states that the driver of a motor vehicle is not 
allowed to operate a cell phone without utilizing hands-free 
equipment (e.g. headset).  The law has not been subsequently amended 
to explicitly outlaw texting while operating a motor vehicle and, 
according to Helgason, there are no imminent plans to do so. 
 
3. (U)  There is little available data regarding casualties, 
injuries or crashes in Iceland related to talking on the phone or 
texting.  Helgason told Emboff that existing figures on this topic 
are, essentially, worthless as very few drivers involved in a crash 
admit that cell phone usage or texting played a role in the 
accident, primarily because they can be fined if this turns out to 
be the case.  He did note, however, that law enforcement officials 
hand out an average of 10-15 tickets per month to drivers of 
vehicles who are using a cell phone or texting.  The current fine 
for breaking the law is ISK 5,000 (approximately 40 USD). 
 
4. (U)  Telephone and insurance companies have sponsored nation-wide 
awareness campaigns to discourage drivers from using cell phones or 
texting while operating a motor vehicle.  Shortly after the law came 
into force, phone companies either offered headsets to people for 
free or provided them at a significant discount.  Many private 
companies have also provided their employees with the equipment for 
free.  Insurance companies, meanwhile, have publicly encouraged 
people to park their vehicles while texting or speaking on the phone 
if they don't possess the necessary headset equipment. 
 
5. (U)  There are some indications that these legal measures and 
awareness campaigns in Iceland are working.  The Association of 
Icelandic Insurance Companies has conducted several surveys on the 
topic and their studies indicate that the usage of hands-free 
equipment among drivers is increasing.  It is estimated, according 
to these studies, that about 25% of Icelandic drivers currently use 
the hands-free equipment on a regular basis. 
 
6. (U)  The overall use of cell phones and text messaging devices 
remains prevalent in Iceland.  According to the Office of Statistics 
in Iceland, 99 percent of the nation's citizens carry a cell phone. 
The Office of Statistics also reported that the total number of cell 
phone minutes utilized in Iceland in 2008 was 677,880 (thousands of 
minutes);  the total number of  short text messages (SMS) sent were 
143,216 (thousands of messages); and the total number of multimedia 
messaging services (MMS) sent were 941 (thousands of messages). 
 
WATSON