23,000 people fined for using mobiles while driving

MORE than 23,000 people have been fined in the first eight months of the year for using their mobile phones while driving, garda figures have revealed.

23,000 people fined for using mobiles while driving

The figures come following a stark warning from coroner Dr Kieran Geraghty at Dublin’s coroner’s court this week about the dangers of driving while talking on a phone.

Paul Monks, 33, died when his car veered off the road and hit a tree as he was talking to his brother on the phone. Mr Monks, who died on July 19, was not using a hands-free kit for his phone.

The number of people caught each month this year ranged from 2,562 in August to a staggering 3,400 in April.

The Road Traffic Act in 2006 created a new offence of holding a mobile phone while driving a vehicle in a public place.

For the whole of 2009, 33,497 people received a fixed charge notice (fine and penalty points) for mobile phone use while driving, according to gardaí. This was down from a high of 41,243 in 2008.

A District Court judge has vowed to crack down on motorists caught using mobile phones while driving following Mr Monks’ death.

Judge Sean MacBride at Carrickmacross District Court said there is a salutary lesson to be learned from the Dublin Coroner’s Court.

He said the fatality highlighted the gravity and dangers to drivers, and all other road users, from the use of mobile phones while driving. He fined a number of drivers €400 for using phones while behind the wheel.

Conor Faughnan, director of policy for the AA, said the death of Mr Monks was a tragic reminder of what could happen.

“Everyone knows you can’t do it and this is for a very good reason — it is extremely distracting and if you become complacent it can kill you.”

Mr Faughnan said research shows even talking on a hands-free device is distracting.

“Research says engaging in conversation on a mobile phone causes cognitive impairment and this is much more significant than listening to music or a match on the radio,” he said.

A lorry driver who contacted the Irish Examiner after reading the coroner’s warning on Wednesday said he was shocked by the number of people he saw using mobile phones, eating and drinking while driving.

“I have been travelling the length and breadth of the country since 1968. In recent times I have noticed so many people when they come up to a roundabout on their phones. I am sitting high above the traffic and see what is going on. People are eating burgers, drinking from flasks and on their phones. Any distraction while driving is so dangerous,” he said.

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