MORE than 110 drivers are being caught every day using their mobile phones while behind the wheel, the Irish Independent has learned.
The number of motorists nabbed texting or making calls on mobiles has rocketed in the past 12 months after a garda crackdown, according to unpublished penalty points figures from the Road Safety Authority.
The figures up to the end of January show that an extra 41,737 drivers got points for illegal mobile phone use over the past 12 months alone.
This works out at an average of 110 a day, or 770 a week -- bringing the total number of drivers now with points for this offence to 96,391.
Gardai, backed up by the Road Safety Authority (RSA), are specifically targeting these motorists. RSA spokesman Brian Farrell said dedicated targeting of drivers who use mobile phones would continue in coming months.
It follows confirmation that truck and car drivers sending and receiving text messages on their phones, as well as making calls, have been the cause of fatal crashes here.
Mr Farrell said drivers who used their mobile phones were four times more likely to be involved in a fatal or serious injury crash.
"It is very disappointing to see so many drivers now being caught for using their mobile phones. The dangers are just unacceptable and such drivers will continue to be subjected to garda enforcement supported by the RSA.
"The best thing that can happen these drivers is that they are caught. They are playing Russian Roulette when they are using the phone for calls or when texting and not watching the road," Mr Farrell told the Irish Independent.
More than 4,400 parents now have penalty points for allowing their children to travel in the back of the car without wearing a seat belt of child safety harness.
Expressing surprise at this figure, Road Safety Authority chief executive Noel Brett, pointed out that drivers would not buy a giant plasma television and throw it into the back of their car without first making sure it would not be thrown around during the journey home.
Of all penalty points offenders, the majority are fully qualified drivers -- a total of 396,467, compared with 27,500 on learner permits.
Amazingly, some 263,517 are listed as holding no licence, most are from the North or abroad, or simply don't have a licence.
A total of 643,787 drivers now have penalty points for speeding -- 168 of them have been put off the road, having clocked up 12 points.
As the number of garda speed checks increased last year, many drivers who ignored the speed limits paid the price in the form of an €80 fine and two penalty points.
The figures show that an extra 134,884 drivers got points for speeding in the past 12 months, an average of 369 a day.
Just 7,706 drivers were nabbed not wearing their seat belt, another major contributory factor in road deaths and serious injuries.
Other drivers now have points for a range of offences, including:
Most offenders have two points (503,396), while 111,500 drivers have four points and 93 motorists with 11 points are just one point away from disqualification.
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