Almost 5,000 drivers caught using phone in first two months of 2019

RSA says number detected is 24% increase over the same period last year

People are more likely to be scrolling through Instagram and Facebook rather than texting while driving. Photograph: iStock

People are more likely to be scrolling through Instagram and Facebook rather than texting while driving. Photograph: iStock

 

Almost 5,000 drivers were caught holding their mobile phones while driving by gardaí in the first two months of 2019, a 24 per cent increase on the same period last year.

There have been 4,905 detections in January and February of this year, up from 3,963 over the first two months of 2018.

Assistant Commissioner David Sheahan, from the Garda National Roads Policing Bureau said drivers have been detected “surfing the net” while driving.

“The problem that we have in respect of it, people have even changed from using a mobile now for texting. What they’re actually doing now is surfing the net. They’re looking at their Instagram portfolio, their Facebook, ” he said.

Motorists detected holding a mobile phone receive three penalty points and a fixed charge notice of €60. The Road Safety Authority and An Garda Síochána are urging drivers ahead of the Easter weekend to put their mobile phones away while driving.

The RSA said using your mobile phone when driving makes you four times more likely to crash.

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Shane Ross said the increase in detections for holding a mobile phone while driving is “shocking”.

“Evidence shows that driver distraction is one of the major risk factors in causing road traffic collisions,” he said.

‘Fomo’

“When you use your mobile phone behind the wheel, taking your mind and eyes off the road for just a split second can destroy everything forever.”

Moyagh Murdock, chief executive of the RSA said there have been fatal road accidents because “someone’s scrolling on a music app or have been checking Whatsapp messages”.

“There is a real “Fomo” (fear of missing out) culture out there, people are afraid of missing something. It’s not even the normal communications of ringing someone to do something or texting. It’s all about social media, the latest alert on Instagram or Twitter, ” she said.

“I think that’s part of the problem here, people have got so addicted to hearing what’s happening out there, they’re afraid of putting it away and switching it off for the short duration most journeys take.

Ms Murdock said it was “disappointing” that the number of road fatalities was up from 50 so far this year in comparison to 45 over the same period last year.

“They’re up five already this year and it’s literally just April so there’s a job of work there to get the message across, to get people to comply with road traffic legislation. It is out there to save lives,” she said

“We’ve saw it two years in a row where there was a sustained reduction in the numbers of people killed. Ireland is actually one of the safest countries in Europe on our roads and we can be number one, really that’s the goal here to have no deaths on our roads. There is still time to try and reverse that trend.”

A total of eight people have been killed and 63 seriously injured in Easter Bank holiday crashes over the last five years. Two people were killed and 14 seriously injured over the Easter Bank holiday last year.