Thursday 23 May 2019

Phones at wheel: Gardai see 24pc increase in detections so far this year

Despite warnings, threat of penalty points and reminders of the dangers, some are still refusing to heed message

Driving while using mobile
Driving while using mobile

RSA Expert

'Speaking on a phone while driving increases the driver's reaction time and mental workload, and changes his or her visual overview ability as well as understanding of the situation.'

Those were the conclusions, and pretty obvious ones too, of a 2018 study from Vilnius Gediminas Technical University.

While it's not hard to accept those findings, we are still seeing many drivers using the roads with either a phone to their ear or their head down, clearly looking at the screen on their device.

While our own RSA observational studies suggest that anywhere between 6-8pc of drivers are using a phone while driving it does not take account of the number of drivers who are texting while driving.

Despite the warnings, the threat of penalty points and the constant reminders of the dangers, some people are still refusing to heed the message.

A message that is clear and simple: mobile phones are detrimental to good driving practice.

Simply put, they are the biggest distraction for drivers on our road networks.

Despite the fact that using them when driving is probably killing people on Irish roads, rational, intelligent people continue to text, make phone calls, take selfies or update their social pages while driving.

International research has found that using a hand-held phone to make a call will make you four times more likely to crash.

Texting, tweeting, or messaging increases the risk substantially. In fact, you are a staggering 23 times more likely to be involved in a collision.

From January to February 2019 there were 4,905 fixed charge notices handed out by gardaí for mobile phone offences.

This compares with 3,963 in the first two months of 2018. This represents an increase of 942 detections - a 24pc increase on the same period last year.

Clearly, the gardaí are working hard to stamp out the practice, and this should serve as a warning to those people who still are not listening.

Almost 80,000 penalty-point notices have been issued to drivers up to the end of February for using a mobile phone while driving.

If the gardaí charge you with a mobile and driving offence, you face a fixed charged notice of €60 and three penalty points on your driving licence.

If you choose not to pay the fixed charge and are then subsequently convicted in court, you'll face five penalty points and a fine of up to €2,000.

In addition, remember, if you get 12 penalty points in a three-year period, you face a six-month disqualification from driving.

As far as consequences go, the financial pain of a fine pales in comparison to the real possibility of physical pain resulting from a crash.

If you take your eyes off the road for just one second, a car moving at 50kmh will travel 14 metres - that's approximately four car lengths.

Every day on social media you will read horror stories of people observing others with their eyes glued to their phones while swerving over and back on the road.

At first you might think such drivers were drunk, only to see the tell tale signs of a driver who is distracted by their phone. On all road types, in towns, villages, every category of driver has probably been guilty at some point of taking their eyes off the road and focusing on our mobiles - sometimes to serious effect.

While enforcement has a key role, education does too. It is almost five years since we launched 'Anatomy of a Split Second', our mobile phone and driving TV campaign that garnered a huge reaction at the time and was voted the best worldwide public service announcement campaign of 2015 at the Global EPICA Awards. This campaign has helped hammer home the dramatic consequences of using a mobile while driving; highlighting that it can happen in a 'split second'.

In years to come we may look back on people using mobile phones while driving as a bizarre period in our social history, but right now the danger is very much there - every hour of every day.

Indo Motoring

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