Using phone while driving 'endemic'

 

The number of motorists using their mobile phones while driving is “endemic” but the gardaí are not forcing greater compliance, an Oireachtas Committee was told today.

The Irish Insurance Federation corporate affairs director Niall Doyle said the number of penalty points given out for talking on a mobile phone were “remarkably similar”in recent years with 33,000 offences in 2009 and projections for the same amount this year.

He said the figures meant that either driver behaviour was not changing or there was a lack of enforcement.

He told the Joint Committee on Transport and Communication: “What we believe that cannot be disputed is the evidence of our own eyes is that mobile phone use is endemic over the last couple of years.

There has not been a “determined focused enforcement effort” to crack down on drivers using mobile phones because of a lack of garda resources, he maintained.

The committee is reviewing 10 years since the penalty points notice came into effect and also proposals to increase points for a number of offences.

The Department of Transport is proposing that penalty points for using a mobile phone while driving should go from two to four.

The committee was told that nearly two-thirds of motorists believe using the mobile phone while driving is an “unforgiveable”offence but many still do it.

AA director of consumer affairs Conor Faughnan said motorists using mobile phones drive other motorists “demented” yet 50 per cent of them admit to making phone calls occasionally while driving and 40 per cent send texts while driving which he described as “unforgivable behaviour”.

A total of 17 per cent believed in an outright ban and 60 per cent were in favour of more draconian penalties for driving while using a mobile phone.

“They feel very, very strongly that it is one of those unforgivable offences,” he said.

Mr Faughnan said 17 per cent of motorists already have penalty points. Motorists in general support penalty points, but 50.6 per cent of those given them believe the penalty points they received were unfair.

The AA regularly sends online driver surveys which can attract between 12,000 and 20,000 respondents and Mr Faughnan maintained that they were an accurate indication of the view of motorists.