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“I’m driving and half asleep” – texting car driver kills young motorcyclist

Young motorcyclist Tobias Durst died when a female Swedish motorist driving at high speed crashed into him at a road construction site. The woman took a selfie on the motorway about six minutes before the accident, and texted a friend “I’m driving and half asleep.” Annika Nilsson from Swedish motorcyclists’ association SMC followed the trial.

Tobias Durst took this selfie in Uppsala two hours before the accident. Photo: private.

Tobias Durst was 24 years old. He loved riding motorcycles and traveling in Sweden. In the summer of 2023, he had left his home in Germany and was planning to travel all the way to the North Cape. Suddenly, everything changed in a second, and Tobias died when a motorist driving at high speed crashed into him at a road construction site. SMC was present at the trial at Gävle District Court on March 7, and two weeks later, the verdict was announced.

It was shortly after 12:30h on Tuesday, August 29, 2023, when the fateful accident occurred. On the E4 highway near Bergby outside Gävle, roadwork was underway. All vehicles approaching slowed down and stopped, including Tobias Durst who was on his way to the North Cape on his motorcycle. Further south, a female driver in her 30s was on her way home from work. According to two witnesses at the scene, the woman was driving at high speed and crashed directly into the line of vehicles without braking. The woman collided directly with the motorcyclist, who was stationary in front of a white van. He died on the spot. A witness at the scene perceived that the woman did not slow down at all and told the police that the woman could not have seen the line of cars.

The first police patrol on the scene described in a report that the motorcycle was completely smashed. The suspected woman was described as being “in a state of dissolution and crying hysterically”. She claimed that she “just wanted to change the radio station” and that she “was not using her phone anyway”. The woman in her 30s was charged with causing death through gross negligence, in connection with the motorcyclist’s case. The woman denies the charges. And, in a later interview with the police, the woman stated that she has increasingly lost her memory of the accident.

The woman took a selfie on the motorway about six minutes before the accident, and texted a friend “I’m driving and half asleep.”


  • In 2018, 1,732 people were fined for surfing or talking on the phone while driving.
  • In 2023, 16,000 people were fined for surfing or talking on the phone while driving.

Source: Swedish police.

The trial – The trial was held at Gävle District Court on the seventh of March. Tobias Durst’s parents, as well as his sister and brother, were present during the trial. The prosecutor stated the following description of the offense: The accused woman committed the act through negligence. The crime is aggravated as the woman, who was driving at high speed on a road section where roadwork was underway and signposted, did not pay attention to the traffic situation as she devoted her attention to her mobile phone, which involved a deliberate and serious risk-taking. The police’s technical examination shows a timeline of the woman’s activity with the mobile phone, where several apps were opened and closed just before the accident. The woman started Facebook via the icon on the phone’s home screen at 12:35:34, and Facebook was closed with the phone’s lock button at 12:36:44. The first call came to the Emergency Response Center reporting the accident had just occurred at 12:36:54. It also emerged that the woman took a selfie on the motorway about six minutes before the accident, and at 12:31:46 she texted a friend, “I’m driving and half asleep.” The woman explained that the message referred to her being bored. Regarding the charge of causing someone else’s death, the accused woman acknowledged that she collided with Tobias Durst, but claimed that just before the accident, she had turned off the radio due to poor reception and had not been using her mobile phone. The woman denies the crime. The prosecutor demanded that the woman be sentenced to prison and that an appropriate length of punishment is one year and three months. The defense argued that the penalty could be limited to a suspended sentence with community service and that the crimes should not be considered aggravated. The Durst family expressed gratitude for the presence of Swedish motorcyclists’ association SMC at the trial, and during the trial, the Durst family was invited to the German Embassy in Stockholm. They visited the accident site where they hung garlands, a star, and candles.

Tobias loved the freedom of riding his motorcycle. Photo: private.

The verdict – The District Court stated in the verdict, which was announced on March 21, that the woman’s recollections varied in a way that led to the assessment that she had omitted parts of the sequence of events that were to her disadvantage, and that she had constructed a retrospective narrative of how she had used the phone. The Court therefore concluded that the woman had used the phone just before she collided with Tobias Durst and that “her negligence was also directly relevant to Tobias Durst’s death. She is therefore guilty of causing death through negligence.” The verdict noted that the first emergency call about the accident occurred ten seconds after the accused, according to the aforementioned investigation, pressed the lock button on her mobile phone. The verdict also highlighted that the woman’s actions during the journey were found to be highly blameworthy. However, when assessing the classification of the offenses, it is not primarily the effects of negligence that should be considered, but rather the degree of negligence.

The Court found that there was not enough support to conclude that the woman’s actions demonstrated such recklessness bordering on intentional conduct. It was also not established that the circumstances of the driving were such that the woman engaged in such pronounced risk-taking that she could be considered almost entirely indifferent to the consequences of her actions.

The accused woman was therefore convicted of negligence in traffic and causing death through negligence of a normal degree. The crimes the woman was convicted of are causing death through negligence and negligence in traffic. Sentence: suspended sentence (probation for two years), 150 daily fines of 170 Swedish kronor (€14.64), totaling 25,500 kronor (€2,196.46). The woman is also required to pay a fee of 1,000 kronor (€86.14) to the Crime Victims Fund and reimburse the state 14,739 kronor (€1,269.55) in costs. In total, the woman must pay 41,239 kronor (€3,552.15). Any damages to the family will be decided later.

Tobias Durst was 24 years old. Photo: private.

Appeal – The deadline for appealing the verdict to Gävle District Court was set for April 11, 2024, and the prosecutor has appealed the verdict. The accused had until April 19 to submit a so-called supplementary appeal before the case is forwarded to the next instance, the Court of Appeal for Lower Norrland. SMC and the motorcycle community will raise awareness in the future to the public, authorities, and politicians about the risks of using mobile phones while driving. A person found guilty of certain crimes and offenses may have their driver’s license revoked by the Swedish Transport Agency. Therefore, a person who causes a collision does not automatically lose their driver’s license; instead, a case-by-case assessment is made. Revoking a driver’s license is not a criminal penalty but an administrative one. The Transport Agency cannot, by law, assess the question of guilt; that is the responsibility of the Court. The agency can only determine what consequences the suspected offense should have on the driver’s license. If a case goes to court and a verdict is reached, it may take a couple of months

The Swedish traffic regulation – From February 1, 2018, as a driver, you are not allowed to use your mobile phone or any other communication equipment if you hold it in your hand while driving a motor vehicle. The rule is in place to protect you and others in your surroundings. “While driving on the road with a motor vehicle, the driver may engage in activities such as using a mobile phone and other communication equipment only if it does not adversely affect the driving of the vehicle. The driver may not use this equipment in a way that he or she holds it in hand.” These regulations mean that the police can report a driver who talks on a handheld mobile phone or uses other communication equipment held in hand. Drivers who violate these regulations may be fined. The fine amount is 1,500 Swedish kronor (€129.20).

Reaction Time and Braking Distance – A driver using a mobile phone while driving has a slower reaction time and a longer braking distance. If you look down for two seconds while driving at 70 km/h, the car can roll 39 meters without control.

  • A collision at 80 km/h is equivalent to falling from the eighth floor.
  • A collision at 70 km/h is equivalent to falling from the sixth floor.
  • A collision at 60 km/h is equivalent to falling from the fourth floor.
  • A collision at 50 km/h is equivalent to falling from the third floor.
  • A collision at 40 km/h is equivalent to falling from the second floor.
  • A collision at 30 km/h is equivalent to falling from the first floor.

Written by Annika Nilsson (SMC)

Top photograph courtesy of Tobias Durst’s family

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