herald

Saturday 3 December 2016

Phone use behind the wheel is 'bordering on addiction' says RSA boss Liz O'Donnell

Driving while using a mobile is almost an addiction
Driving while using a mobile is almost an addiction

MOBILE phone use by drivers is "bordering on addiction", Liz O'Donnell, the chair of the of the Road Safety Authority (RSA), has said.

Ms O'Donnell raised her concerns about the dangerous practice a year after tougher laws were introduced to stamp out mobile phone use behind the wheel.

She said that RSA research showed that as many as one in 12 road users still use a phone while driving.

Ms O'Donnell has warned of the dangers of drivers getting distracted.

"I truly believe this problem is getting worse, particularly the issue of distraction by mobile phones, which for some borders on addiction."

Ms O'Donnell was speaking ahead of the publishing of the RSA's Annual Report which is due out in the coming weeks.

Her warning on mobile phone use while driving comes almost a year after Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe announced a crackdown on the problem.

Penalty points for holding a mobile phone were increased from two points to three at the same time that points were increased for speeding, not using a seat belt and not using child restraints.

"The increases which I have signed into effect will impact on a number of areas which are very serious and can have fatal consequences.

"We have seen a culture change in recent years in attitudes to drink-driving and I want to see the same change in attitude where speeding, using phones while driving and wearing seat belts are concerned," Mr Donohoe said at the time.

Last year was a bad one on Irish roads with 195 lives lost. It was a 4pc increase on 2013 and the second year in the row that there was a rise in fatalities.

Ms O'Donnell said last year's numbers are "grim and disappointing".

She said that a decline in the number of detections of road offences could be an indication of greater compliance by motorists but also expressed concern that it could be due to a decrease in Garda Traffic Corps numbers.

Numbers have been reduced from 1,200 to around 750 between 2009 and 2014, the Irish Examiner reported.

"A highly visible presence of gardai on the road, plus the threat of enforcement is the single biggest factor in changing people's behaviour on the road," she said.

So far this year 86 people have died on the roads.

On Sunday night, a man in his 30s died following a motorcycle crash on the M50 northbound at the Blanchardstown junction.

The man's bike collided with a crash barrier at approximately 9.30pm.

No other people were involved in the incident. Gardai are appealing for witnesses to contact Blanchardstown Garda Station on 01-6667000.

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