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No court cases yet for texting while driving

No one has been prosecuted under new legislation that outlawed text messaging while driving.

Since May, motorists who text or email while behind the wheel have been liable to face a fine of up to €1,000 for a first offence and a compulsory court appearance.

The fine limit increases to €2,000 for a second or subsequent offence. Three or more breaches could incur a prison term of up to three months.

The legislation, introduced by former Transport Minister Leo Varadkar, was aimed at tackling what the Road Safety Authority (RSA) termed "lethal behaviour".

PENALTY

Motorists who send messages while driving spend up to 400pc more time with their eyes off the road, the RSA has warned.

Any motorist convicted under the new regulations must attend court and face a financial penalty.

There is no option to take the lesser penalty of penalty points on this offence.

The new penalties supplemented existing penalties for holding a mobile phone while driving and apply specifically to sending SMS or MMS messages and emails.

They closed a loophole which may have permitted motorists to send a text message if a phone was in a hands-free kit.

Despite the lack of court prosecutions, gardai have issued 21,144 fixed charge notices to motorists caught using their phones while driving.

notices

In a parliamentary response last month, Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald revealed the new laws have not yet resulted in prosecutions.

However, more than 19,000 fixed charge notices were issued in the first six months of this year, she said.

Brendan Griffin, a Fine Gael deputy, had asked Minister Fitzgerald for the number of fines and penalty points that have been issued for texting and driving since the new law came into force.

Driver distraction is thought to play a role in 20-30pc of all road collisions. Using a mobile phone can increase the risk of being in a road collision by up to four times.

Gardai say the increased availability of technologies for use in vehicles has caused driver safety problems to escalate.

comurphy@herald.ie


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