24% more drivers caught holding mobile phones

There has been a 24% increase in detections of people holding mobile phones while driving - a practice which makes the driver four times more likely to crash.

Gardai and the Road Safety Authority revealed the statistic ahead of this Easter Bank Holiday weekend as they urged motorists to park up before using a device.

There have been eight deaths and 63 serious injuries in Easter Bank Holiday crashes over the last five years. Two people were killed and 14 were seriously injured over the period last year.

In the first two months of 2019, there were 4,905 people detected by the gardaí holding their phones while driving, an increase of 24% in detections compared to the first two months of 2018 (3,963).

Using your mobile phone when driving makes you four times more likely to crash,” said Moyagh Murdock, Chief Executive of the RSA. “Despite this, rational, intelligent people continue to text, make phone calls and check into their social media accounts.

“The offence of holding a mobile phone while driving is the second highest reason for a driver to receive penalty points, after speeding, and 81,199 penalty points notices for mobile phone usage were issued in the three-year period up to end of March 2019.

“Nothing is that urgent that it cannot wait until you are safely parked up.”

Assistant Commissioner David Sheahan of the Garda National Roads Policing Bureau, said: “Any interaction with a mobile phone while driving is a killer behaviour that affects your ability to drive safely and puts the user and others at risk.

“It’s for this reason that An Garda Síochána continue to target this behaviour and alarmingly we have seen a 24% increase in drivers detected holding a mobile phone in 2019 vs 2018. Motorists detected holding a mobile phone risk a fixed charge notice of €60 and three penalty points.”

Mobile phones potentially distract a driver in several ways:

- Physically: instead of focusing on the physical tasks required by driving (e.g. steering or gear changing), drivers have to use one or both of their hands to manipulate the phone.

- Visually: mobile phones could visually distract drivers in two ways: Firstly, drivers have to move their eyes from the road and focus on the mobile phone in order to be able to use it. Secondly, while talking on a mobile phone, even if drivers’ eyes are focused on the road, they 'look but do not see'.

- Auditory: the focus of drivers' attention moves from the road environment to the sounds of the mobile phone and the conversation. This particularly applies when the sound quality is poor.

- Cognitively: instead of focusing their attention and thoughts on driving, drivers divert their attention and focus on the topic of the phone conversation.

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