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30 November 2023

Motorists and hauliers seem to show an important change of pace in the improper and risky use of mobile phones while driving and, after 2022 had marked the worst data in the five-year period analysing the behaviour of motorway travellers, the 2023 survey - conducted by the "Driving Styles Observatory" promoted by A4 Holding - instead shows a decisive drop in the percentage of the indicator, which goes from 16% to 11.3%. In decrease ulteriorly the excesses of speed is in A4 Brescia-Padua that in A31 Valdastico, but the percentage of passengers not using their seatbelts in the car worsened.

These are the main results that emerge from the survey carried out in July 2023 by A4 Holding, an Abertis Group company that manages 236 km of motorway sections between A4 Brescia-Padova and A31 Valdastico, through its 'Driving Styles Observatory', an operational tool that since 2019 identifies and analyzes the behaviors held by users on the highway and monitors its evolution over time.

The examination of the data, which this year too was carried out by Atraki Srl - a spin-off company of the University of Padova specialized in the analysis of transport systems - took into consideration a sample of more than 1,680 light and heavy vehicles, observing different driving behaviour through mobile stations with cameras and visual detection on vehicles traveling along motorways, and analyzed traffic data collected by radar at fixed stations located on certain motorway sections of the A4 Brescia-Padova and the A31 Valdastico.

The calculations thus carried out by the Observatory showed an improvement in the data concerning the unsuitable use of mobile phones while driving by the drivers examined: if in fact in the 2022 report the average figure recorded had stood at 16%, for 2023 the figure is 11.3%, with a decrease for both light vehicles (4 percentage points less than in 2022) and heavy vehicles (5 percentage points less).

The danger of using a smartphone while driving is well known, just think that dialing a number on your mobile phone (typing time equal to 13 seconds) while traveling at a speed of 120 km/h means traveling a distance of almost 430 metres - the equivalent of about four football fields - without seeing the road.

The other behavioural indicators examined made it possible to gather other useful and positive information on motorway driving habits, primarily that linked to excess speed, that is, the one recorded for cars exceeding the 130 km/h limit, which is attested for 2023 averaged 9.9% on the A4 and 34.9% on the A31, and which sees on the sections examined a further flexion compared to last year's data (11.3% on the A4 between Brescia and Padova and 36.4% on the A31 Valdastico).

On the other hand, the bad habit of not wearing a seat belt is unfortunately increasing among drivers, especially heavy vehicle drivers, from using it in 88% of the cases observed in 2022 to 76% in 2023, and among passengers of light vehicles who sit in the rear seats, whose data worsens of 10 percentage points compared with the 2022 data (21% not wearing a seat belt, compared with 11% in the previous survey). Instead, the share of front seat passengers not wearing seatbelts in light vehicles fell slightly (9% vs. 5% in 2022).

The observations carried out from a fixed position also made it possible to verify that the percentage of vehicles not observing the correct safety distance is slightly up on the 2022 data (it was 31.27% on the A4 and 17.1% on the A31), and is now 31.5% on the A4 and 18.6% on the A31, while the percentage of heavy vehicles drivers who fully observe it is almost invariated from the last survey (over 93% on the A4 and around 96% on the A31).

To complete the framework of the mobile analysis of motorway user behaviour, the Observatory also checked the behaviour of drivers with regard to the use of lane-change indicators, the non-use of which has always been a potential cause of accidents and collisions. The 2023 data show that the tendency to signal a lane change in order to overtake remains a good practice mainly among drivers of heavy vehicles (79% of the cases analyzed) and less so among motorists (54%), but the habit of not signalling the return manoeuvre (50.6%) resists in the negative for both vehicle classes.

Finally, in spite of the many recommendations and precious invitations made by A4 Holding, also through  the warnings on the 117 variable message panels on the two motorways, the harmful habit of drivers of not occupying the rightmost lane while driving on the motorway is getting even worse (47.4% on the A4 and 34.4% on the A31 - statistics referring to light vehicles only).

"We continue to consider the Driving Style Observatory a very effective analysis tool - is the comment of Gonzalo Alcalde, Chairman of A4 Holding - to understand how to stem, as far as we can, those attitudes that resist the recommendations and awareness campaigns we have been implementing for years. The accident rate indicator on our motorway sections under our jurisdiction remains largely reassuring, and our choices are all oriented towards the safety of travellers, starting with major investments in maintenance, including safe and high-performance road pavements, and operational management of traffic and infrastructure. But we realise that there is still much to be done to develop a road safety-oriented culture and to counter the negative behaviour of motorway users. We will therefore continue our activities to monitor the development of these behaviours and support further driver educational projects and initiatives."