Northern Ireland

Fewer drivers in Northern Ireland caught on the phone

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Media captionThe number of detections for mobile phone offences has steadily decreased.

The number of people caught using a mobile phone while driving in Northern Ireland has halved from 9,908 in 2011 to 4,802 in 2017.

That was 10% of all motoring offences committed in 2017, according to police.

A government consultation on plans to increase fines and penalty points closes on Tuesday.

Currently anyone caught driving while using a mobile phone in NI faces a fixed £60 fine and three penalty points.

If the case goes to court the driver could be disqualified from driving and face a maximum fine of £1,000.

There were almost 8,000 court convictions in Northern Ireland as a result of people using a mobile phone while driving between 2010 and 2016. New figures obtained by the BBC show that no penalty points were imposed in a quarter of these cases.

The new consultation proposal suggests the minimum fine should more than treble to £200 while penalty points should double from three to six. If approved, the proposal would bring Northern Ireland into line with the rest of the UK where the law was toughened last year.

Using a phone while driving is already an offence but this plan would also outlaw "holding" a phone while driving in Northern Ireland.

Image copyright Department for Infrastructure
Image caption The Department for Infrastructure ran an online and TV advertising campaign about the dangers of driving while on the phone

The public consultation was launched by Stormont's Department for Infrastructure, which said it was about "making the roads safer for everyone".

It ran alongside a new TV advert campaign, which shows police interviewing a young driver who has caused the death of two brothers by using his phone seconds before a fatal crash.

  • In 2017 there were 4,802 PSNI detections related to mobile phone driving offences.
  • The number of detections for mobile phone offences has steadily decreased from 9,908 in 2011 to 4,802 in 2017.
  • Mobile phone offences accounted for approximately one-tenth of all motoring offences in 2017.
  • Males accounted for over three quarters of all persons detected for mobile phone offences in 2017 while persons aged 30 - 49 accounted for over half.
  • There were almost 8,000 convictions at court in Northern Ireland as a result of people using a mobile phone while driving between 2010 and 2016.
  • 75% of those convicted of driving while on their phone received a fine of £100 or under and in 85% of the cases no ban on driving was imposed at all.

(Statistics provided by the Department of Justice/ Police Service of Northern Ireland)

Image caption PSNI Insp Rosie Leech

The PSNI's Insp Rosie Leech said: "While we acknowledge that detections are on a downward trend, police officers regularly detect road users holding their mobile phone while driving, making calls, texting and sending emails.

"We have also detected people using various smartphone apps, even watching films, when they should be paying attention to the road."

She added: "Drivers who use a mobile phone while driving, are four times more likely to crash, injuring or killing themselves or other people.

"Anyone who uses a mobile phone whilst driving is putting themselves and others at risk, which is why police remain committed to addressing this dangerous activity."

The Department for Infrastructure confirmed that responses to the latest consultation will be used to put proposals to an incoming Infrastructure Minister.

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