One in 20 drivers flouts phone ban, says safety body
DRIVERS in Cork city and Maynooth in Co Kildare are the worst for flouting the mobile-phone ban.
One-in-10 motorists in these areas is making telephone calls while behind the wheel, new research from the Road Safety Authority (RSA) found.
This compares with safety-conscious drivers in Athlone, where just one-in-50 were caught breaking the law.
And the safety watchdog yesterday revealed that the number of motorists being hit with penalty points for using a mobile phone has increased by more than 20pc in just a year.
Up to August this year, 93,525 motorists had received two points for mobile phone offences -- an increase of 15,904, or 20pc, in just a year. It is now the most common penalty-point offence after speeding.
The RSA said last night that the fact people were not aware they were four times more likely to crash while using a mobile was "extremely worrying".
The problem could be understated, it added, because the survey did not capture people texting or using hands-free kits. Research suggested that even using a hands-free phone was not safe.
"While you might think you can drive safely while using your mobile phone, this is simply not the case," chief executive Noel Brett said.
"Research tells us that using a hands-free mobile phone is no safer than using a hand-held mobile phone while driving.
"By continuing to use your mobile phone while driving, you are risking your life, the lives of your passengers and the lives of others, and no phone call is worth that risk," he said.
The visual survey, which was carried out at 45 locations across the country, showed that more than one-in-10 drivers in Cork and Maynooth used their phones, compared with a national average of one in 20.
The survey also found:
- Of the 33,949 drivers observed, some 1,964 were using a phone, giving a national average of 6pc.
- The highest rates for non-compliance were in Cork city (12pc) and Maynooth (9pc).
- But at two sites in these areas -- MacCurtin Street in Cork and the entrance to NUI Maynooth -- 16pc of drivers were seen on the phone.
- The lowest rates were in Drogheda and Dundalk (3pc) and Athlone in Co Westmeath (2pc).
- Both Galway and Dublin recorded a 4pc usage rate, while Limerick was 7pc.
Using a mobile phone while driving became a penalty-point offence in September 2006. Assistant Commissioner John Twomey said gardai would impose fines and points on offenders.
"It is unsafe and illegal to use a hand-held mobile phone while driving," he said. "We are committed to reducing the numbers of people risking their safety and the safety of others."
If caught, a driver must pay a fixed-charge notice of €60 and will incur two penalty points. If a driver does not pay the fixed charge and is convicted in court, four penalty points and a fine of up to €2,000 will be applied. The RSA is to run a radio advertising campaign this week to remind drivers of the dangers.