Belfast Telegraph

'Wise up' message to drivers who use a mobile at wheel

By Jonny Bell

An ambulance driving instructor has revealed some of the incredibly stupid driving he has witnessed on Northern Ireland roads in a pre-Christmas warning to motorists.

Seamus McAllister said in recent weeks he has been "shocked" to see people using their phones while driving at high speed.

In one instance an ambulance using its blue lights was tail-gated. The paramedic pulled over to let the man pass - only to see him texting on his phone.

Another crew passed a woman with her phone in the middle of the steering wheel while scrolling through a social media site - at 70mph on the motorway.

"Wise up," said Seamus. "We don't want to see an empty chair at any Christmas dinner this year."

Yesterday was one of the busiest days on the road, resulting in a series of serious crashes across Northern Ireland.

By mid-afternoon paramedics had already attended 10 incidents. The Ambulance Service said it dealt with 33 crashes on Wednesday alone - almost three times more than usual.

So far this year 66 people have died on our roads. Ambulance Service spokesman John McPoland said it was seeing an increase in single-vehicle crashes, which might be explained by drivers possibly not paying attention due to being on their phones.

"But that may not be the cause," he said. "That's up to the police to investigate.

"On Wednesday I was amazed to see that there were 33 call-outs for road collisions. The usual average is between 12 and 13.

"It's that time of year, people are rushing about and their patience is wearing thin and we just appeal to all to take extra care, look after yourself and other road users"

Mr McPoland said the Ambulance Service and partner agencies had witnessed an increase of people using their phones behind the wheel and at speed.

"Travelling at 70mph and taking your eyes off the road for just two seconds can be catastrophic. The distance you can travel in that time alone is scary, you just have no time to react," he added.

"There is no message, no call that important. If you do think it important, then wait to the next safe place to pull over to check. We appeal to people: resist the temptation to check the phone and, if you can't, turn it off."

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