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Watch: Higher fines not a deterrent to drivers using mobiles

Contraventions up from 4,600 in 2013 to over 11,000 in 2016

Video: Chris Sant Fournier

Statistics show that an increased penalty only had a short-lived impact on the number of drivers using their mobile phones. Photo: ShutterstockStatistics show that an increased penalty only had a short-lived impact on the number of drivers using their mobile phones. Photo: Shutterstock

The number of tickets given to drivers using their mobile phones has gone down slightly since the fines were hiked up last year, but the director of operations of the Local Enforcement System Agency (Lesa), Elizabeth Vassallo, believes that the number is still too high.

According to various reports and replies to parliamentary questions, the number of contraventions for using mobile phones has been steadily increasing, from 4,578 in 2013 to 6,414 in 2014 and 8,282 in 2015. There were 11,145 contraventions issued in 2016 and 5,705 between January and July this year.

With the aim of reducing this abuse, the authorities increased the fine from €23.29 to €100.

At first, the increased penalty had the desired effect and the numbers started to go down – but the impact was short-lived. From around 850 tickets a month between March and July in 2016, there was an average of 781 tickets per month issued in the same months this year – a drop of just six per cent. And Ms Vassallo has seen the numbers creeping back up, reaching 931 in July.

“It is clear the €100 fine is not enough. The deterrent has to be higher,” she said. She believes that the best way to tackle this would be to have a progressive fine which would increase for repeat offenders. Studies from a number of countries suggest that as many as one in 10 drivers use their mobile phone while driving, with the use of hands-free mobile phones likely to be higher.

Distracting texts

◊ According to World Health Organisation studies, if you are using a mobile phone while driving, you are app-roximately four times more likely to be involved in a crash than a driver who is not. This risk appears to be similar for hand-held and hands-free phones, because the distraction is an issue, not only holding the phone.

◊ Text messaging appears to have an even more severe impact on driving behaviour and crash risk.

◊ Texting while driving is especially dangerous, since it combines all three types of distraction, according to the Centres for Disease Control and Protection in the US.

◊ Sending or reading a text message takes your eyes off the road for about five seconds, long enough to cover a football field while driving at 88 kilometres per hour.

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