Drivers watching videos among 33,000 stopped for using mobile phones

Number of motorists caught by gardai using mobiles while driving up 20% on previous year

Seán Haughey,  Fianna Fáil TD, said it was definitely a more serious offence to be watching a video than making a call.  Photograph:  Niall Carson/PA Wire

Seán Haughey, Fianna Fáil TD, said it was definitely a more serious offence to be watching a video than making a call. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA Wire

 

Ninety motorists are stopped by gardaí every day for using their mobile phones while driving, latest figures show.

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan said 32,715 people were detected committing the offence in the 12-month period up to April this year, a rise of 20 per cent on the same period the previous year.

Seán Haughey, Fianna Fáil TD for Dublin Bay North, who obtained the figures from Mr Flanagan, said harsher penalties were needed.

“It is a sharp rise in detections,” he said. “Obviously gardaí will say they are giving it increased attention, but I think it is also a growing problem.

“This is the modern world we live in – people are becoming addicted to their mobile phones and the problem is increasing all the time.”

The former minister of state has also called for legislative change to allow for “more serious” offences involving phones while driving.

Same offence

Mr Flanagan told him it was “not possible” to say how many drivers were caught watching videos or on social media, because they were all treated as the same offence as making or taking a call, under section 3 of the Road Traffic Act 2016.

“It is definitely a more serious offence to be watching a video than making a call; the motorist is so caught up as to be oblivious to everything,” said Mr Haughey.

“There is a new, emerging issue here and a proportionate response is required.”

The official Garda Twitter account shows numerous such incidents over recent months.

On June 20th, gardaí posted about 13 motorists stopped in Adare, Co Limerick for holding a mobile phone while driving. “Many were texting or watching videos,” they tweeted. The drivers were so immersed in their phones that they “didn’t notice” gardaí signalling to pull them in.

On May 7th, the day of the Liverpool v Barcelona UEFA Champions League semi-final, gardaí tweeted about a motorist stopped in north Dublin “watching match on mobile phone while driving!”.

On July 11th, gardaí at the scene of a crash on the N25 at Little Island, in Cork, apprehended a motorist taking photographs while driving past, while a taxi driver was pulled over in Dublin on April 29th for videoing a motorcycle crash as he was driving.

In all cases, the motorists were given a fixed charge notice – a €60 fine.