Penalty points for using phone while driving in sharp decline

Decrease due in part to fall in Garda checkpoints, says AA spokesman Conor Faughnan

  Provisional figures from the Garda show 20,684 notices were given to drivers in the first seven months of 2014, with just 17,191 for the corresponding period this year. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Provisional figures from the Garda show 20,684 notices were given to drivers in the first seven months of 2014, with just 17,191 for the corresponding period this year. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 

The number of fines and penalty points issued by the Garda Síochána to motorists using hand-held mobile phones while driving has fallen by nearly a fifth, according to new figures.

Provisional figures from the Garda show 20,684 notices were given to drivers in the first seven months of 2014, with just 17,191 for the corresponding period this year, a reduction of 16.9 per cent.

The Automobile Association blamed the decline partly on a fall in the number of Garda checkpoints.

“An optimist would say that people are suddenly changing their behaviour, a pessimist would say there was a drop in enforcement,” said AA spokesman Conor Faughnan.

Enforcement

People in the motor trade said many new cars are fitted with equipment to allow hands-free telephone conversations. They believed this was likely to have been a factor in reducing the number of potential offenders.

Mr Faughnan said the size of the drop in the number of notices was surprising. “It would be extremely naive to assume that this is a problem that is going away. It is more likely linked to enforcement and a number of things.”

Research from the Road Safety Authority two years ago showed the extent of the problem.

A poll of more than 1,000 drivers in November 2013 revealed that one in seven drivers talked on a hand- held phone when driving.

Seven per cent said they texted while behind the wheel.

Nearly three-quarters of men aged between 17 and 34, the most vulnerable group of drivers, admitted to illegal use of mobiles.

The chairman of the authority at the time, Gay Byrne, compared driving while using a hand-held phone to drink driving.

A 17-month high point for penalty point notices came in April 2014, when 5,031 notices were issued.

By the following month, the the number had fallen back to 2,014 and it has remained broadly at that level since then.

In the most recent month for which figures are available, July 2015, the figure was almost exactly the same at 2,071.