25% fall in drivers penalised for using phones

The number of motorists penalised for using their mobiles has dropped by 25% in the past five years.

More than 41,000 fixed charge notices were issued in 2008, but the figure has fallen every year since. Last year, it was 30,806.

In January, 2,087 notices were issued. If that were to be extrapolated on a monthly basis for the rest of the year, it would give a 2013 total of just 25,000.

Justice Minister Alan Shatter said he has been assured that gardaí are still carrying out regular monitoring for a range of motoring offences.

Gardaí said there was a variety of factors which had led to the reduction: “For example, reduced economic activity which has a knock-on effect in less miles travelled on our roads.

“Driver behaviour is changing, as there have been many detections that have similarly reduced over those years,” said a Garda spokesman. “In particular though, drink-driving detections have almost halved between 2007-2012, whilst at the same time the level of breath testing and MAT [mandatory alcohol testing] checkpoints have remained steady. In fact, the number of MAT checkpoints increased in 2012.”

The spokesman said that, as a result, there has been a fall in road deaths for seven consecutive years, culminating in a record low of 162 in 2012.

Deaths on the roads to date in 2013 are up significantly compared to the same period last year. Up to 9am yesterday, 47 people had died in road crashes since the start of the year. That compared with 33 up to Mar 26 last year.

Conor Faughnan of AA Ireland said it would be a concern if there was any reduction in Garda enforcement of motoring offences. However, he said the reduction in fines could be down to three factors — the 8%-10% reduction in the volume of cars on the road since 2008; an increase in the prevalence and availability of handsfree technology, which he warned could also be distracting for drivers; and the fact drivers were getting the message.

The Road Safety Authority has estimated that using a mobile phone while driving makes a person four times more likely to crash.

It says the offence makes it harder for the driver to keep in lane, drive at the right speed and at a speed that other drivers can predict, keep a good distance from the car in front, and judge safe gaps in traffic.


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