Much tougher penalties came into force in England, Scotland, and Wales last month for the illegal use of mobile phones while driving.
Newly qualified drivers will now lose their licence if caught using a handheld mobile phone at the wheel. Penalty points and fines for using a phone while driving have doubled, to six points and £200.
In Britain, drivers can have their licence revoked if they accrue six points within two years of passing their test. Those caught using their mobile twice, or who accrue 12 points on their licence, will face court, disqualification, and fines of up to £1,000.
Mobile phone use behind the wheel also continues to be a significant problem on Ireland’s roads and we should consider following Britain and doubling our penalty points and fines for this offence. Currently, this offence leads to three penalty points and an €80 fine.
A new survey of Irish motorists reveals that nearly half of drivers (46 per cent ) would support the introduction of technology to disable certain phone functions for the sake of safety. More than one in four respondents (26 per cent ) felt that some form of blocking device would be more effective at deterring mobile phone use than the introduction of harsher penalties.
The survey of Irish motorists for Continental Tyres’ Vision Zero initiative, a commitment to reduce road fatalities worldwide, also highlighted that more than half of drivers (54 per cent ) admit to regularly using their mobile phone while behind the wheel.
More than one third (36 per cent ) of respondents feel that mobile phone use is "normalised" as so many people are doing it; 23 per cent say they find it difficult to be disconnected from their mobiles for any length of time; 62 per cent feel it is OK to use a phone in stopped or slow-moving traffic versus 22 per cent who said it is illegal to use a phone in any traffic situation.
In terms of the main activity that drivers engage in on their phones while behind the wheel, making/receiving calls and texting are still the most common activities. Nearly two thirds say this is their most regular activity on the phone.
However, with the recent rise in the popularity of smart phones, nearly half say they regularly use their phone for accessing their social media profiles while driving.
Head of Continental Tyres Ireland, Tom Dennigan, said: “Our research reveals that drivers know that their use of phones is illegal, distracting, and dangerous, yet it is clear that many of them cannot help themselves.
“Nearly one in four, 23 per cent, told us they struggle to be digitally disconnected, and 36 per cent felt that so many people now checked their mobile in traffic that the practice has become normalised.”