The Minister for Infrastructure Nichola Mallon has today announced her intention to legislate for higher penalty points and fines for drivers who use a handheld mobile phone when driving.
The move from the Minister comes after a report produced by the Analysis, Statistics and Research Branch of the Department revealed, that more than half of all drivers used their phone while driving.
The Minister explained that she has written to the Committee for Infrastructure to outline her legislative programme priorities including updating the law to protect road users.
Minister Mallon said: “As Minister for Infrastructure part of my responsibility is promoting and improving road safety. This is a responsibility I take very seriously.
“Many of the actions taken within my Department to improve road safety fall out of the current Road Safety Strategy. The current Strategy expires in December and work has begun within my Department that will help inform my decisions on the current strategy’s successor later in the year. In the meantime, I want to take any steps possible to support the continued reduction in the number of people killed or seriously injured on our roads.
“A report published recently by my Department showed that approximately one in eight drivers admitted to texting while driving, while almost one in twelve 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.
“Evidence shows that using mobile devices while driving is distracting. Distraction while driving is one of the main causes of road traffic collisions on our roads. Many of those collisions causing serious injury and some resulting in loss of life. Any collision caused by mobile phone usage when driving, is one too many. 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 6 penalty points. This would be a first step to signal to drivers that I will be taking a zero tolerance approach to dangerous driving.
“I am hopeful that the committee will support my intentions and that we can work together to make our roads safer for all across the North.”