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Driving instructors risk calls in lessons

DRIVING instructors are putting road safety at risk while taking calls and texting on their phones when in control of a car.

Instructors believe that it would be "business suicide" not to accept bookings on the phone, even if it is while they are in the car.

But representative groups say that they are putting other road users in harm's way.

Although it is technically not illegal, the qualified instructor is in fact in charge of a vehicle with dual controls, they point out.

And learner drivers have complained about their instructors being less than attentive during their lesson.

The new Road Traffic Bill 2012 will increase points for using a mobile while driving from two to four.

Authorities regard mobile phone use and texting while driving as being at epidemic levels.

But they have not yet moved to outlaw the practice for driving instructors.

The professionals claim that they need to take all of these calls as part of their role as a self-employed businessperson to receive bookings and change lesson times.


Karl Walsh, Managing Director at the Irish School of Motoring said that one driver said it would be "business suicide" not to take calls.

But Mr Walsh has called on the government to make this practice illegal.

"It was a common complaint that driving instructors were taking calls in the middle of a lesson," Mr Walsh said.

"Generally speaking, a lot of students could be nervous and vulnerable during the lesson so you can't take your eyes off them let alone answer a call.

"This means that they (instructors) literally put road safety on the back burner," he told the Herald.

The Irish School of Motoring has established a new online booking system to reserve lessons with instructors due to a rising problem of road safety.

The ISM's new booking system allows learner drivers complete access to their lesson schedule, allowing them to book, amend or cancel a lesson at the touch of a button 365 days a year, from their smart phone, tablet or laptop.

Now 25pc of all bookings at ISM are made online at www.ism.ie.

The Road Safety Authority has condemned the practice of accepting phone calls in a lesson.

"When giving instruction the approved driving instructor should give his or her customer their undivided attention," a spokeswoman told the Herald.

More than 110 drivers are being caught every day using their phones behind the wheel.

A total of 98,200 penalty points have been issued to motorists for using their mobile phone so far this year.