BOGOTA, Colombia (AP):
In Colombia, beauty can kill. Drivers ogling attractive women rather than paying attention to the road are one of the South American country's leading causes of car accidents.
Distraction was the number one cause of the 115,000 road accidents in Colombia last year, costing some US$250 million (¤200 million), according to research by the Road Safety Fund, a private organisation.
The cellphone was the biggest distraction for drivers, accounting for about 10 per cent of all accidents.
Second was men staring at women, which accounted for nearly one in 20 crashes.
"It's a culture here of drivers honking the horn at an attractive woman, throwing her some compliment as he drives past, and he's not concentrating on driving," the group's director, Francisco Fernandez, told a news conference.
His presentation included close-up images of attractive women in miniskirts to remind the audience of the extent of this danger.
Colombia has been improving its road safety, bringing down accidents from an average of 200,000 per year to just over 115,000, last year.
But with potholed roads traversing treacherous mountain ranges and drivers who don't think twice about overtaking on blind corners, driving in Colombia can still be a dangerous endeavour.
While authorities have begun fining those caught driving and speaking on a cellphone - sanctioning more than 17,000 drivers in Bogota alone last year - the fund is recommending fewer draconian methods to discourage men from looking at women while driving.
"We are hoping for an educa-tional campaign, to inform drivers of how dangerous this can be," said Fernandez.
Other listed distractions were drivers fussing with their appearances and looking at advertising, which in Colombia often features scantily clad women.
The study found that as male drivers grow older, they get grumpier: less focused on women, but more inclined to be distracted by arguing with their passengers.
"Around the world, distraction is one of the leading causes of accidents. The reasons for distractions are different for each culture," Fernandez said. "In the United States, research has found a large cause of distraction is eating while driving, something not seen here."