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Consultation opens on stricter penalties for using a mobile phone while driving

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A public consultation has opened today on proposals aimed at deterring the illegal use of a mobile phone while driving.

It is already an offence to drive a vehicle while ‘using’ a hand-held mobile phone or similar device and is currently punishable by a fixed penalty of £60 and three penalty points. Despite this, illegal use of mobile phones by drivers is an increasing problem.

This consultation considers whether the current offence and penalties continue to represent an active deterrent and also proposes changes that will make it illegal to hold a mobile phone while driving.

Donald Starritt from the Department for Infrastructure’s Safe and Sustainable Travel Division is encouraging people to respond to the consultation:

“This consultation, agreed by the previous Infrastructure Minister, is an opportunity to express views on proposals to strengthen deterrents against using or holding a mobile phone while driving, including increasing the fixed penalty from £60 to £200 and increasing penalty points from three to six.

“Many of you will have already seen the Department’s latest advertising campaign “Interview Shame”, which highlights the devastating consequences caused by using a mobile phone while driving. Hand held mobile phones are distracting yet some drivers continue to ignore the dangers and flout the law. Creating a safe community is a key aspect of the draft Programme for Government and this consultation is about making our roads safer for everyone.

“The Department continues to work with our road safety partners in the PSNI to keep all road users as safe as possible.”

Chief Inspector Diane Pennington of PSNI Roads Policing said: “Police investigations and observations confirm that driving distraction and a decrease in driving standards, caused by phones and other electronic devices, is on the rise. Most drivers understand they shouldn’t be using their phones when driving and know it’s wrong, but still we see it occurring every day on our roads. We believe it’s time to look at measures to dissuade and deter this behaviour, coupled with potential changes to make it easier to enforce the law. With this in mind we encourage everyone to consider what ideas or views they can contribute to the consultation.”

The consultation will run from 6 March to 15 May. Responses can be made online at: https://consultations.nidirect.gov.uk/dfi-driving-policy-branch/71af5f0a or by downloading the consultation papers from: www.infrastructure-ni.gov.uk/consultations.

The response to the consultation will be used to put proposals to an incoming Infrastructure Minister.

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