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Using a mobile phone while driving in Ireland

The use of mobile phones while driving is becoming an ever increasing problem, which is why it is only right that the authorities are clamping down.  In Ireland, on average, 76 people are caught every day using their mobile phones when driving. In 2015 alone, just over 28,000 people were found to be using, or holding, their mobile phones while behind the wheel.

In this article, we look at the law on using a mobile phone while driving, and share some tips to help you avoid falling foul of the law.

What does the law say?

Under Irish Law, it’s an offence, while driving, to hold your mobile phone in your hand, or support it with another part of the body, such as between your shoulder and neck. ‘Hold’ is the operative word because it makes no difference whether the person ‘holding’ the phone is talking, texting or browsing.The fines have been increased and, if caught, you’ll have to pay €80 and receive 3 penalty points on your licence.

To specifically address the increasing problem of texting while driving, Irish Law was tightened in 2014.  New road safety regulations stipulate a mandatory court summons and a fine rather than just penalty points.

Distractions can be deadly

There is no doubt that distracted driving causes accidents, and using, or holding, a mobile phone while driving is a prime example of this.

The only time drivers are legally allowed to use a mobile phone in their car is if there’s an emergency and they need to phone 999, 112, or another emergency number.

If you must use your phone in the car, you should use a hands-free kit.  However, with a hands-free phone, you may never send a text or an email, or browse the internet, even if the phone is in its hands-free cradle. Nor are you allowed to dial a number on a hands-free phone whilst driving, unless the system is voice-operated.

It’s as well to remember that even with a hands-free kit you can still be prosecuted for careless or dangerous driving, or driving without due care and attention, and your licence could be endorsed, or you could even lose it for a period.

What’s more, if your mobile phone use while driving causes a collision or road traffic accident, passengers or other drivers affected can bring a personal injury compensation claim against you – a potentially lengthy and costly legal procedure and one that is certain to adversely affect your motor insurance in the future.

How does mobile phone use affect a person’s driving?

Researchers have found that when people drive and use a mobile phone at the same time, whether it be a hand-held device or hands-free kit, their driving is affected in different ways. The study found it makes it more difficult for drivers to:

  • Keep to their lanes
  • Drive at the correct speed, and at the speed other drivers are anticipating
  • Keep a proper and safe distance from the car in front of them
  • Judge gaps in traffic properly

Here are 6 useful tips:

  1. Turn off your phone before starting out on your journey, or put it in ‘silent’ or ‘meeting’ mode.
  2. Switch to Voicemail, so people can leave messages for you while you’re driving.
  3. Don’t hold a mobile phone in your hand, or support it with another part of your body when driving. 
  4. Ideally, try to avoid using a hands-free kit or Bluetooth system when driving because you’ll still be distracted.
  5. If you need to use your mobile phone, park your car in a safe place, turn off the engine. Only then should you check your messages and make calls.
  6. While driving never look up a number, take notes, or send text messages.

McCarthy & Co Solicitors provide a nationwide service in personal injury claims through offices in Dublin and Cork.

DISCLAIMER: This article should not be regarded as constituting legal advice in relation to particular circumstances. This article is merely a general comment on the relevant topic. If specific advice is required in connection with any of the matters covered in this article, please speak to McCarthy & Co Solicitors directly.

Published on 5th April 2017
(Last updated 21st March 2018)

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