Penalty points constant as drivers continue illegal use of phones

Fixed-notice fines issued for driving while using a mobile consistent for past 2½ years

Road Safety Authority says distracted driving could be a factor in up to 30 per cent of all collisions. Photograph: iStock

Road Safety Authority says distracted driving could be a factor in up to 30 per cent of all collisions. Photograph: iStock

 

Motorists are continuing to use their mobile phones while driving despite fines and the imposition of penalty points, new figures show.

The number of fixed-notice fines issued for driving while using a mobile phone has remained consistent for the past 2½ years, averaging 28,000 cases annually.

As the figures emerged, the Road Safety Authority said that distracted driving could be a factor in up to 30 per cent of all collisions.

Chief executive Moyagh Murdock also said “international research has shown that making a call while driving will make a driver four times more likely to crash, while texting makes crashing a staggering 23 times more likely”.

She warned that “too many people still drive while on their phone taking calls, texts, snapchats, even updating their social media channels and checking their emails while driving”.

Despite the impact of distracted driving on the number of collisions, “rational, intelligent people continue to text, make phone calls, take selfies or update their social pages while driving”.

The figures released by Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan show that 28,777 fines were issued in 2015, a further 28,121 last year, and 14,046 in the first six months of this year.

He told Independent TD Tommy Broughan in a parliamentary reply that in 2015 a total of 5,335 fixed-charge notices or fines went to court. Last year 5,230 of the 28,121 fines issued ended up in court.

Up to June 30th this year, of the 14,046 fines issued, 1,428 have gone or are going through the courts, which if followed for the remainder of the year would represent a significant drop in the number of cases going to court.

The figures from the Minister also showed that 22,657 of the 28,777 penalty points notices were paid in 2015. Last year 22,288 motorists out of 28,121 paid the fine and 9,545 of the 14,046 drivers issued with penalty points fines up to the end of June this year have paid up.

New payment option

A new third payment option was introduced on June 1st, giving offending motorists a third chance to pay the fine. If they don’t pay the fine within the first 28 days, the charge increases and must be paid within the following four weeks.

Until June this year, if a fine went unpaid after 56 days, a courts summons was automatically issued, after which there was no recourse for a motorist to pay the fine rather than go to court.

Since June and the introduction of the third payment option, motorists can choose when they receive the summons to pay an extra charge and avoid the courts. Mr Flanagan said An Garda Síochána would closely monitor its implementation.

Warning of the dangers of using a mobile phone while driving, the RSA chief executive said: “When you use your mobile behind the wheel, taking your mind and eyes off the road for just a split second can destroy everything forever.”

Ms Murdock said that was why the authority fully supported the Toyota Face It Down campaign, which rewards drivers, through a phone app, for every kilometre they drive with their phone facing down and untouched. Further information is available at faceitdown.ie