Mobile phones have led to 20 road deaths in Northern Ireland
Twenty recent road deaths in Northern Ireland were directly or indirectly caused by the use of mobile phones, it can be revealed.
The figure, which equates to 5% of all road victims here over the past five years, has emerged amid a warning that so-called 'phone zombies' are to blame for a rising number of fatalities.
Pedestrians' failure to look where they are going - and drivers' failure to spot them - has been deemed the biggest contributing factor in the increase of deaths and injuries.
PSNI Inspector Rosie Leech also warned that 'distracted driving' is expected to be the biggest cause of fatalities on the roads this year.
"More and more people have mobile phones, smart phones and mobile devices which they find difficult to switch off, even for a minute," she said.
"The number of motorists using mobile phones to make calls, texts or social media updates while driving has risen and careless/distracted driving is expected to be the biggest single cause of death and injuries on roads in 2015.
"Using a mobile phone while driving increases the risk of a collision by a factor of four, and driving ability is reduced to something similar to that observed for drivers at the legal alcohol limit."
She added: "Drivers are reminded that not only are there serious risks by being distracted by these mobile devices while in control of a vehicle, but also there are penalties and consequences to face for breaking the law."
Figures provided by the PSNI revealed that between 2009 and 2014 there were five people killed or seriously injured (KSI) and 33 slight casualties on our roads where use of a mobile phone was deemed the principal causation factor.
The PSNI also said that between 2009 and 2014 there were 15 people KSI and 46 slight casualties on our roads where use of mobile phone was deemed the contributory causation factor.
The 2013 Northern Ireland Road Safety Monitor reported that over a third (36%) of motorists used a mobile phone while driving.
Insp Leech said using a phone when driving could result in a £60 fine or three penalty points.
"It is not only motorists who are distracted by using a mobile phone - pedestrians and cyclists are also at risk on the roads," she said. "Every day people are seen using our busy roads with their earphones in listening to music or looking at social media sites on their mobile phones.
"I would advise you, take just a few seconds away from your mobile devices, pay attention when using the road and when crossing it.
"Those few seconds of concentration can mean the difference between you crossing or cycling safely or ending up in hospital because you were not aware of oncoming traffic."