Gardai 'cannot enforce law on drivers texting'
TRANSPORT Minister Pascal Donohoe has been accused of introducing 'completely meaningless' road safety legislation because there are no plans to close a loophole which makes it almost impossible to prosecute drivers for texting.
Road safety campaigners have been warning the Government for more than a year that laws dealing with drivers who use their phones are inadequate.
Senior gardai have accused the Department of Transport of 'gross incompetence' in the drafting of road safety laws.
The Minister is due to introduce new legislation before the Dail in December.
The proposed Road Traffic Act will include penalties for using the internet on smart phones whilst driving.
But there are still no plans to give gardai power to seize mobile phones to examine them.
This failure, said road safety campaigner Susan Gray, was "completely baffling".
Gardai have chosen instead to prosecute offenders for holding a mobile phone.
No-one has ever been convicted of texting whilst driving in the 18 months since it was banned.
"The hands of the ordinary guard are tied because the law is unenforceable," Ms Gray said.
Even if the offence becomes punishable with on-the-spot penalty points, a motorist who appeals the decision could have the penalty overturned in the courts because gardai could not examine his/her phone.
"We raised this and other issues with the Minister in January," said Ms Gray from the road safety group Parc (Public Against Road Carnage).
"We told him the law (on texting) is unworkable because gardai were never given the powers to seize or examine someone's mobile phone.
"Now there are proposals to ban the downloading of apps and using Google, but again these will not be enforced because of this failure to give gardai the appropriate powers.
"The only cases we see where powers may eventually be given to seize phones are in cases of fatal incidents and only after a court order from a judge. It's not working."
There is a growing focus on road safety laws after a High Court judge ruled last week that anyone failing a garda station breath test must be given a print-out of the reading in both Irish and English.
The loophole was closed within days.
The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Claire Loftus will decide by October 16 on whether or not to appeal the High Court ruling which affects up to 2,000 drink-drive cases in the State.
A costs hearing is due that day and Ms Loftus will indicate to the court whether or not the ruling will be appealed.