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Drivers to face tougher laws on texting

TRANSPORT Minister Leo Varadkar is determined to tighten the rules relating to texting while driving.

Using a mobile phone while driving is prohibited under current road traffic legislation.

But Mr Varadkar said motorists claim to be confused as to whether this law applies to sending text messages.

"There is a grey area. The law says that you can't operate a mobile phone while driving," he said.

"But it's not 100pc clear as to whether that applies to sending a text or doing an internet search while the phone is in a cradle, for example.

"So I'm going to sign regulations in the next few weeks just to make it very clear that it is illegal to operate a mobile phone under any circumstances while driving."

The issue of phone use while driving dominated yesterday's road safety conference in Dublin Castle.

It heard that nearly one in 10 road crashes could be avoided if drivers were better educated about the dangers of texting while driving.

Phone companies in the US have begun to target the problem with high-profile awareness campaigns.

Michelle Kuckleman, from mobile company AT&T, said the "It Can Wait" campaign launched across the US last year by a number of phone providers was directly attributable for an 8pc reduction in car crashes.


A spokesperson for the Road Safety Authority told the Herald he would be in favour of such a high-profile campaign here, but it was up to phone and technology companies to get the ball rolling on such an initiative.

Garda Assistant Commissioner John Twomey announced that a one-day awareness campaign will be held next week discouraging in-car phone use.

Meanwhile, employers now face the prospect of being held liable for accidents caused by their intoxicated employees.

As gardai crack down on driving under the influence of drink or drugs, new powers are being considered for the courts to punish employers for the actions of staff members.

Mr Varadkar said yesterday he is considering placing the responsibility on to company bosses.

It is understood the new laws will focus on employees who cause serious road accidents while under the influence of drugs or alcohol consumed at company-sponsored events.