THERE has been a 70% increase in the number of people who have received penalty points for holding mobile phones while driving.
The number of penalty points issued for the offence increased from 44,624 to 75,040 in the 12 months to July.
The penalty point offence has now overtaken seatbelt offences to become the second highest after speeding, out of a total of 41 penalty point offences.
Penalty points for holding a mobile phone while driving only came into force in September 2006. Those caught using a mobile phone receive two points, which can double if a court challenge fails.
The highest increase of 92% was recorded in Kilkenny where the number of penalty point notices issued increased from 1,056 to 2,028 over the 12 month period.
In Dublin the number of notices increased from 9,484 to 15,628 (+65%); in Cork the number of notices increased from 5,255 to 8,356 (+59%) and in Kildare the number of notices increased from 2,172 to 3,739 (+72%).
Leitrim recorded the lowest 12 month increase of 45%, with the number of notices increasing from 222 to 323 over the 12 month period.
The figures were published yesterday by the Road Safety Authority.
This month the authority will launch a radio campaign entitled “Switch Off, Before You Drive Off” to warn motorists about the dangers of using a mobile phone while driving.
RSA chief executive Noel Brett said motorists were four times more likely to crash if they use a mobile phone while driving.
“Using a mobile phone while driving distracts the driver, impairs their control of the vehicle and reduces their awareness of what is happening around them,” he said.
Transport Minister Noel Dempsey said using a mobile phone was dangerous.
“No call is important enough to risk putting lives at risk,” he said.
AA Ireland’s director of policy Conor Faughnan said Ireland was a nation of mobile phone junkies. “We simply have to get out of the all-too-easy habit of using the phone while driving,” he said.
Garda Superintendent Gabriel McIntyre, from the Garda National Traffic Bureau, said he was concerned that drivers were not getting the safety message about mobile phone use. “Drivers need to be aware that Garda personnel are enforcing the law on mobile phones on a daily basis,” he warned.
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