Phoning at the wheel is getting a lot worse, survey shows

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A detailed insight into the perceived use of mobile phones at the wheel is published today. It highlights an apparent contradiction whereby most drivers claim they “never” hold their phone while driving – but half of them think phone use by others is getting worse.

ost of those surveyed (61.5pc) said they want to see  tougher penalties for phone use at the wheel. The findings are in a recent survey of 2,617 motorists by AA Ireland.

Around half (48.2pc) said the overall problem of phone use while driving has worsened in the past two years. Fewer than one in five think it has got better.

The survey also shows how 79pc reported “often” or “occasionally” seeing drivers using their phones for hand-held calls or texts. Five per cent said they have not seen another driver on the phone in the past year.

However, two in five say they have used their own phones while driving to “make a handheld call, send or read a message or check a notification”. Most of these say they do that “rarely”. Only 1.6pc admit to doing this “often”, while 59.7pc say they “never” do so.

There were slightly different outcomes when people were stopped in traffic or at a red light, the survey found but, again, few said they hand-held the phone regularly. While three in five admitted to doing so, they said it was rare. 

Only 4.5pc said they “often” make a hand-held call, send a message or check a notification when stopped; 42.1pc say they “never” do.

It is illegal to hold a phone while driving, including having it cradled between your neck and shoulder.

Holding a phone can result in a fixed charge penalty notice of €60 and three penalty points.

It is also against the law to send a message or access information on a phone while driving, even if it is on a dashboard mount.

Last year, gardaí issued 24,474 fixed charged penalty notices for mobile phone use. Distracted driving can also lead to charges of driving without due care and attention, careless driving and ­dangerous driving.

AA Ireland head of communications Paddy Comyn said: “This survey shows that most motorists feel that phone use is unacceptable. Most say they never use their own phone for handheld activities while driving, but they feel others do so regularly and think penalties should be more strict.”

The AA reminded motorists that even a glance at a phone can pose significant risk when driving. Mr Comyn said: “While looking at a notification might feel quick, when driving at 120kmh on the motorway, a vehicle travels around the length of a soccer pitch every 3.5 seconds. In the five seconds it takes to manually dial a number, you could drive the length of a  soccer pitch and a half without looking. Doing the same thing at 50kmh, a motorist would drive the length of five ­double-decker buses with their eyes off the road.”

The survey also found that more than one in four have opened or changed a music app on their phone while ­driving.

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