Category: Archive

Phoning while driving ban will be enforced

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Andrew Bushe

DUBLIN — After a five-month wait while gardai sought clarification of regulations that will ban the use of hand-held mobile phones while driving, new amended regulations will be issued in the middle of next month, a spokesman for the Attorney General’s office said.

A Department of Transportation spokesman said it hoped the amended regulations could be signed off by Minister Seamus Brennan and be enforced by October.

The clampdown on phoning and driving comes amid growing concern about the high number of accidents it is causing and international studies showing that taking mobile calls at the wheel can be as dangerous as drunk-driving.

The first set of regulations, originally signed off by former Environment Minister of State Bobby Molloy, provide for a fine of euro 190 for a first offense, euro 435 for a second and a three-month prison sentence and/or fine of up to euro 435 for a third.

Under new road safety legislation, drivers will also incur penalty points under a proposed system due to be implemented in October. An accumulation of 12 penalty points over a three-month period will automatically lead to a six-month driving ban.

Sign up to The Irish Echo Newsletter

The Transportation Department spokesman said the level of fines would remain the same and amendments to the regulations were to try to ensure that there weren’t anomalies or legal challenges.

“The regulations needed legal tightening up on the enforcement side so that when we do introduce them we won’t find loopholes emerging that people might try and take advantage of,” the spokesman said.

The original ban was wide-ranging and said a driver “shall not hold or have on or about their person” a mobile phone or similar apparatus except when parked.

Gardai sought advice about whether this meant that if drivers had a switched-on phone on the passenger seat beside them or in their pocket would they be guilty of an offense?

Clarification was also sought on communications devices used by the emergency services.

Pat Costello, chief executive of the National Safety Council, said the council is looking forward to the implementation of the regulations. Saying they would have a positive impact on road safety.

“The real problem with mobile-phone usage is the distraction factor,” Costello said. “Safe driving requires full-time concentration and anything that will take away from that or detract from that can literally cause crashes, injuries and fatalities.”

He said there were 411 people killed on the roads last year. In at least two of the fatal crashes, use of a mobile phone was a factor.

There are about 3 million mobile phone subscribers, a penetration rate of over 80 percent.

Currently there is no specific ban on the use of phones while driving.

Gardai have been able to prosecute under the Road Traffic Acts on the basis that a person using a mobile phone is driving in a manner that could be regarded as dangerous or careless.

The new ban will not cover hands-free kits in cars. Handheld CB radios and two-way walkie-talkies will be covered by the ban.

Other Articles You Might Like

Sign up to our Daily Newsletter

Click to access the login or register cheese