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Six penalty points and £200 fine for motorists who use phone at wheel in Northern Ireland

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Big risk: a driver using mobile phone

Big risk: a driver using mobile phone

Big risk: a driver using mobile phone

Tougher penalties will be introduced for motorists who use mobile phones while at the wheel in Northern Ireland, the Infrastructure Minister has revealed.

Nichola Mallon today announced her intention to increase fines and penalty points for offenders.

Using a phone at the wheel currently results in a £60 fine and three points.

Under Ms Mallon's proposals, that will be raised to a £200 fine and six points - in line with penalties in place in Great Britain.

Latest PSNI statistics show that police recorded 3,718 cases of a driver using their phone at the wheel in Northern Ireland in the 12 months to the end of November 2019 - 10 a day on average.

Last month a Department for Infrastructure (DfI) report revealed that more than half of all drivers used their phone while driving.

One in eight admitted to texting while driving.

Ms Mallon said: "As Minister for Infrastructure, part of my responsibility is promoting and improving road safety. This is a responsibility I take very seriously."

She added: "A report published recently by my department showed that approximately one in eight drivers admitted to texting while driving, while almost one in 12 admitted to making a hand held call while driving.

"The report also showed that drivers are aware of the risks, with 92% stating that if you use a handheld mobile phone while driving you would be more likely to cause a crash.

"Importantly 55% agreed that the penalty should be increased."

Since March 2017 offenders in England, Scotland and Wales receive a £200 fine and six penalty points.

In 2018, DfI undertook a consultation on stiffer penalties for offenders here.

The results were published last summer and, of the 337 responses, 89% supported an increase.

Ms Mallon added: "A phone call can wait, but road safety cannot. It's not acceptable that penalties for such a serious offence only currently carry a fine of £60 and three penalty points.

"That's why today I have written to the committee for infrastructure outlining alongside a number of legislative priorities, my intention to legislate for increased fines and penalties for drivers using their mobile phones.

"I am proposing that increases should be in line with Great Britain, which would mean a £200 fine and six penalty points.

"This would be a first step to signal to drivers that I will be taking a zero tolerance approach to dangerous driving."

The PSNI said: "Mobile phone use by drivers poses such a high risk for everyone on the road, not just the driver themselves, but for other motorists too.

"We know that motorists who choose to use their mobile phone while driving are four times more likely to crash, injure or kill themselves, or other people.

"Drivers who choose to deliberately engage in this type of reckless behaviour need to remember that if they are detected, they are breaking the law and, with that, comes penalties and consequences.

"It is simply unacceptable behaviour.

"Nothing on your mobile phone should be more important than your responsibility to keep yourself and others safe on the road."

Belfast Telegraph