Belgium seems like a fairly harmless country. They tend to stay out of the way and they don’t grab headlines often. But recently, the Internet made it appear as though Belgium is obsessed with texting.
First, there is the viral video showing a driving inspector forcing new drivers to text while driving. He tells the students they will not pass their driving test unless they are successfully able to text perfectly while driving perfectly.
Second, there are photos of special walking lanes in the city of Antwerp for people who wish to walk and text.
With regard to the video, it is a campaign by a nonprofit called Responsible Young Drivers. They actually did have an actor pose as a driving inspector and convince young drivers that a new law required them to pass a texting while driving test. The video has been around since 2012, and it was clear from watching the video that this is a public safety campaign and not an actual law.
The video frequently resurfaces as click-bait, and the headlines and summaries make it appear as though the test is real. The video and its original presentation were good tools to raise awareness that are now being cheapened by an Internet culture that has no regard for facts or accuracy.
Moving on to the text walking lanes — it turns out this was a marketing stunt by a mobile phone company, whose name I will not mention so as to deprive them of credit for it. Not only did the company not get permission to graffiti the streets of Antwerp, it broke local and national laws to do so. According to a report by Quartz, the mobile phone company has been billed for the cleanup of the city streets and fined for breaking the law.
Several media outlets fell for this ploy and it appears to be a classic case of a company sending out a press release and media outlets not following-up to check for accuracy. In many of these stories the first or second paragraph reads “Antwerp has given smartphone users their own designated lanes.” Seems no one bothered to check with the city of Antwerp to make sure they were on board.