Police this week embarked on the first national campaign aimed at drivers who use their mobile phone whilst driving.
The campaign runs for a week (May 23-29).
It is the first of two campaigns this year which aim to draw drivers’ attention to not only the risks posed by being distracted by mobile phones while in control of a vehicle, but the serious penalties which they will face if they are caught.
Inspector Rosie Leech said: “More and more people have mobile phones, smart phones and mobile devices now which they find difficult to switch off, even for a minute.
“Drivers are easily distracted by a phone call or text message. If your attention is drawn to your phone, you will not register or react as quickly to hazards on the road and drivers need to realise they cannot concentrate on the road and their mobile phone.
“The numbers of motorists using mobile phones to make calls, texts or social media updates whilst driving has risen and distracted driving is expected to be the biggest single cause of death and injuries on roads as a result in 2015.
“Using a mobile phone whilst 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.
“This campaign is being run to remind drivers not only the risk posed by being distracted by these mobile devices whilst in control of a vehicle, but also the serious penalties and consequences they will face for breaking the law.”
The inspector added: “If you use your phone when driving, at best your call or text could cost you a £60 fine, three penalty points on your driving licence which would also then result in higher insurance costs. At worst, it could cost a life. Could you live with that on your conscience?
“My advice to you today is switch your mobile phone off before you start your journey, even if you have a hands free device in your vehicle.
“Whilst using a hands free kit is not illegal in Northern Ireland, research has convincingly shown that phone conversations impair driving performance resulting in significantly poorer driving performance with regard to speed control, warning detection and response.
“Don’t take the chance, no call or text is that important. Switch your phone off, so you are not tempted or if you do leave your phone switched on, do not answer it if it rings or if you receive a text message. Wait until you are safely parked up and your engine is switched off before answering or replying.
“Remember answering that call or text could cost someone their life because of a moment’s inattention. That is a penalty too far.”
• Mobile phone offences accounted for more than one fifth (22 per cent) of all Fixed Penalty Notices and Discretionary Disposals in 2014.
• Males accounted for 75 per cent of all drivers issued with a Fixed Penalty Notice or Discretionary Disposal during 2014.
• Between 2009 and 2014,ap there were five people killed or seriously injured and 33 slight casualties on our roads where use of mobile phone was deemed the principal causation factor.
• Between 2009 and 2014, there were 15 people killed or seriously injured 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 of motorists report using a mobile phone while driving. The majority of those who would use a mobile whilst driving said they were aware of the risks associated with this behaviour.
• Research has found that the risk of collision is four times higher when a mobile phone is being used.
• A large number of studies have shown that using a mobile phone while driving degrades driving performance. Mobile phones have the potential to distract drivers in several ways:
Instead of focusing on the physical tasks required by driving (e.g. steering, gear changing), drivers have to use one or both of their hands to manipulate the phone.
Mobile phones could visually distract drivers in two ways:
Drivers have to move their eyes from the road and focus on the mobile phone in order to be able to use it. Whilst talking on a mobile phone, even if drivers’ eyes are focused on the road, they ‘look but do not see’.
The focus of drivers’ attention moves from the road environment to the sounds of the mobile phone and the conversation. This particularly applies when the sound quality is poor.
Instead of focusing their attention and thoughts on driving, drivers divert their attention and focus on the topic of the phone conversation.