Phone use while driving has gotten worse, survey finds
Around half of motorists said the problem of phone use while driving has gotten worse in the last two years.
Most drivers “never” use their phone handheld while driving, but half think that phone use by others is getting worse, according to a new survey from AA Ireland.
The insurance agency found that around half of motorists (48.2%) said the overall problem of phone use while driving has gotten worse in the last two years, as fewer than one in five thought it has gotten better.
Nearly four in every five motorists (79%) said they see other drivers using their phones for handheld calls or texts "often" or "occasionally".
Only 5% said they have not seen another driver on the phone in the last year.
However, only two in five said they have used their phones themselves while driving to make a handheld call, send or read a message or check a notification.
Most of these said they do this "rarely". Only 1.6% of respondents admit to doing this "often", while 59.7% said they "never" do so.
AA Ireland stated it is a slightly different picture when stopped in traffic or a red light, but again very few stated this a regular occurrence for them.
Three in five motorists said they have done so, but mostly "rarely". Just 4.5% said they "often" make a handheld call, send a message or check a notification when stopped, while 42.1% said they “never” do.
It is illegal in Ireland 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 on your driving licence.
It is also against the law to open, send or read a message on a phone while driving, even if it is on a dashboard mount.
In 2020, Gardaí issued 24,474 fixed charged penalty notices for mobile phone use.
AA Ireland notes that distracted driving can also lead to charges of driving without due care and attention, careless driving and dangerous driving.
The majority of those surveyed (61.5%) said they want to see stronger penalties for phone use while driving.
“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," AA Ireland Head of Communications Paddy Comyn said.
"While looking at a notification might feel quick, when driving at 120km/h 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."
Also in the survey, which included 2,617 motorists, over one in four drivers said they have opened or changed a music app on their phone while driving in the past year. 70% said they "never" do this.