Belfast Telegraph

90% support tougher penalties for drivers caught using phones

Stronger penalties should be issued to drivers in Northern Ireland who use their mobile phones at the wheel, a consultation has found
Stronger penalties should be issued to drivers in Northern Ireland who use their mobile phones at the wheel, a consultation has found
Adrian Rutherford

By Adrian Rutherford

Stronger penalties should be issued to drivers in Northern Ireland who use their mobile phones at the wheel, a consultation has found.

Around 90% of people who took part in the exercise said the existing penalty should be increased.

Currently, anyone caught with a mobile at the wheel is liable for a £60 fine and three penalty points.

Some 61% of those who took part in the consultation favoured an increase to £200 in line with changes made in Great Britain from March, 2017.

The 10-week exercise, organised by the Department for Infrastructure (DfI), ran from March to May last year.

However, without a minister in place, the legislation as it stands cannot be changed.

In February a survey by the DfI found that 52% of drivers in Northern Ireland have used their phone while driving.

In 2017 the punishment for using a phone at the wheel was doubled in the rest of the UK from three penalty points and £100, enough to ban those with less than two years' experience.

However, any decision to increase penalties here would have to be taken by Stormont.

Last year the DfI undertook a consultation on stiffer penalties for offenders, and received 337 responses.

Some 89% supported an increase to the current level of fixed penalty notice fine and penalty points.

Some 15% of respondents favoured an increase from £60 to £120, while 61% favoured an increase from £60 to £200, in line with the changes made in the rest of the UK.

In terms of penalty points, 62% favoured an increase to six points for all drivers.

PSNI Inspector Rosie Leech said: "The findings from this report shows the public's concern around the use of a mobile phone behind the wheel.

"Officers will continue to detect people using their mobile phones, however, as we highlighted in the consultation, a review and simplification of the legislation would assist our ability to detect and deter offenders.

"Motorists who use a mobile phone while driving are four times more likely to crash, injuring or killing themselves or other people. There is nothing on their mobile that is more important than the safety of themselves and other road users."

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