The measures are the latest attempts to combat mobile phone use and repeated drink driving, which authorities in Austria have struggled to tackle in recent years.
A ban on mobile phones
Everyday drivers send 200,000 texts and make 900,000 phone calls in Austria while they are driving.
Distracted driving caused 38 percent of car accidents in 2014, leading to 111 deaths, according to derStandard.
Stricter laws for mobile phone use while driving are coming into effect starting immediately. The new amendment to the Motor Vehicles Act makes using your phone to surf the web and writing and reading text messages while driving illegal and punishable with a fine of €50.
“Distraction is one of the main cases of car accidents on our roads. We want to counteract this trend with the stricter mobile phone ban,” Transport Minister Jörg Leichtfried told derStandard.
The Ministry have said, however, that drivers are still allowed to make phone calls on speakerphone and use their phone as a navigation system, as long as the phone is safely attached to the inside of their vehicle.
Alcohol locks planned for 2017
Along with this amendment to the driving laws, the government also hopes to soon introduce alcohol locks to prevent drink drivers from repeatedly offending.
Approximately 26,000 motorists lose their licence every year in Austria due to drinking driving, 7,000 continue to drive without a licence and 4,000 continue to drive while over the limit, according to a 2015 report from the Austrian Road Safety Board (KFV).
This led to calls for alcohol breathalyser immobilisers for drivers who are caught drink driving. This is going to become a reality for Austrian drivers in 2017.
The law amendment necessary to introduce these 'Alco-locks' will be evaluated before the summer and the plan is to have the first locks in use by 2017, according to the APA.
Most drink driving offenses take place during the summer month of August.
Instead of piloting Alco-locks on a test group first, drivers who are caught drink driving will be given the choice between the locks and getting their licence revoked. However if they choose the Alco-locks, their probation period will be twice the length.
Whether many people will choose to have Alco-locks remains to be seen, especially as the drivers will be expected to pay for the equipment. This could cost up to €3,000 euros for one year of driving with the Alco-lock.
Although Transport Minister Leichtfried added: “The appeal of being able to continue driving is relatively strong.”
Written by: Helena Uhl