France outlaws texting while driving, even when you’re at a red light

france texting while driving man sitting in car with mobile phone hand
sifotography / 123RF Stock Photo

We know you’re not so reckless as to still be texting while you’re driving, but now, the French government is looking to be even more sure that this dangerous habit is eliminated for good. A court in the European nation has ruled that it is illegal for drivers not only to text while driving but basically to text while they’re in the car at all. Even if you’ve pulled over, stopped at a red light, or have your hazard lights turned on, you better not have your smartphone in hand. If you want to run the risk, you could be looking at a fine of up to 135 euros, or about $167.

Anytime you aren’t parked in a designated parking lot (or your own driveway), your phone now has to be put away in France. In addition to the fine, French drivers will also face three points on their driving license for three years (think of it as a demerit), which is the same punishment doled out to folks who are caught actually texting while driving.

But before you cry foul and say that the laws have gone too far, you might consider the challenges France has faced in attempting to make their roads safer. Road mortality in the nation has been on the rise for the last three years in a row, which marks the longest period of continued increase since 1972. In 2016, the death toll resulting from motorist accidents reached 3,469. We should point out, however, that this is still markedly lower than numbers in the U.S. — in 2016, the number of reported casualties at home as a result of car accidents was 40,000.

As such, it comes as little surprise that governments are doing everything they can to reduce injuries and fatalities in whatever ways they can.

Of course, there are a few exceptions to the rule. If you’re driving in a car with Bluetooth audio (or any other hands-free method), you’re welcome to make calls or otherwise operate your smartphone, as long as you can do it with only your voice. And naturally, if your car breaks down on the side of the road, you’re not forbidden from taking out your phone to call for help.