More than 1,000 drivers expected to be fined

It is not necessary to be engaged in a call as simply holding a phone is an offence

A garda in Dublin today taking part in the enforcement operation against mobile phone use by drivers. Photograph: An Garda via Twitter

A garda in Dublin today taking part in the enforcement operation against mobile phone use by drivers. Photograph: An Garda via Twitter

Fri, Apr 25, 2014, 06:35

Upwards of 1,000 drivers are expected to have been detected using a mobile phone while driving, by the time a two-day special Garda road safety operation ends tonight.

With at least 300 motorists having been detected using a mobile phone by lunchtime yesterday, gardaí were last night expecting rush hour traffic to lift the numbers considerably. An exact update on the numbers is expected from the Garda National Traffic Bureau this morning.

The special enforcement operation which was widely publicised in advance, aims to make drivers aware of the dangers of using a mobile phone, which Assistant Commissioner John Twomey, of the Garda National Traffic Bureau, said could be fatal.

Garda tweet

The Garda press office said numbers were expected to have hit at least 600 by nightfall last night, and the final tally for 48 hours should be well in excess of 1,000 drivers.

Under the current crackdown errant drivers will be faced with a fixed charge fine of €60 which comes with two penalty points.

However from May 1st this year the number of penalty points will rise to three, and a separate offence of sending a multi media message - such as texting - while driving will result in a mandatory court appearance where the fines may be up to €1,000.

However a spokesman for the Department of Transport yesterday described as a “red herring” claims by taxi drivers that when the new regulations are in place they would be unable to use the popular new Hailo taxi app.

The spokesman said taxi drivers were advised to pull in and stop their cars before using their Hailo apps, but he insisted they would not be within the scope of the new regulations.

“The new regulations are specific to SMS, MMS communications on a mobile phone between mobile or fixed numbers, or emails. As Hailo is not one of these communications methods it is not covered by these regulations.

However, it is recommended that anyone using Halo should pull over for safety," said spokesman, Nick Miller. He added that Minister for State Alan Kelly has written to taxi drivers explaining this situation.

Almost 10,000 drivers were detected holding a mobile phone while driving in the first three months of this year.

In the whole of last year, there were more than 28,000 people detected.

According to research, there is a four-fold increase in the risk of having a road crash when using a mobile phone.

Provisional figures from a national mobile phone operation held on March 27th showed a 300 per cent increase in detections above the average daily detection rate.

Mr Twomey said the operation was in order to “make drivers aware of the dangers of using a mobile phone” and to “detect offending motorists”.

“We all know how distracting mobile phones can be in any situation, except in the car it can have fatal consequences," he said.

Gardai also warned the offence is committed by a driver when “holding a mobile phone while driving”.

This can be in the hand or supporting or cradling it with another part of the body, such as between the neck and shoulder.

Nor is it a requisite that a person is actually engaged in a conversation. Similarly a person texting, or accessing the internet/ emails etc, is committing an offence if “holding” the device.