Ban the phone pests

My obsessive nature has caused me much pain over the years whether it be ensuring that I walk on pavement cracks with both feet or that my beard is shaved evenly on both sides.

One thing I obsess about frequently are drivers who have absolutely no regard for other people and no regard for the laws by which they are bound.

However, there were several breakthroughs in Irish legislation this summer with regard to road safety that may help us turn the corner.

The first was the implementation of random breath-testing. The second was the introduction of a ban on the use of hand-held mobile phones while driving. The penalty for this offence is a fine of up to EUR2000 and, as of the autumn, two penalty points on their licence.

Our Minister for Transport, Martin Cullen, has been strongly criticised for the delay in the penalty points being implemented as part of our recent Road Traffic Act. The transport spokeswoman for the opposition Labour party, Roisin Shortall, said: “If we are to improve road safety and reduce both crashes and road deaths, then all the provisions of the new Road Traffic Act must be implemented without further delay.”.

It’s a fair point. The death toll on Irish roads this year is 244 with another three added to the list this bank holiday weekend.

The focus has been on drink-driving with the Road Safety Authority (RSA) working with our Gardai to try and educate our mis-guided Irish brothers who think that the cost and inconvenience of taking a taxi home from the pub is far less than the cost and inconveneience of being killed, or killing someone else.

But as I walk the streets of Dublin I can be sure that every minute or so I’m going to see some reckless bastard tearing down the road with one hand on the wheel and the other pressing the mobile phone to their ear.

Figures just released in the UK show that last year there were 13 deaths that were directly related to drivers using mobile phones. Another 429 accidents which resulted in serious injury were directly attributed to drivers using mobile phones. And these are just the ones that can be proven. You can be sure that the real figures are much higher.

If you take in to account that driving using a hands-free kit is just as dangerous, it’s frightening how far this can be taken.

This week a 31-year old lorry driver in the UK is starting a four-year jail term for killing a woman while behind the wheel of his seven-and-a-half-ton lorry because he was distracted by using a mobile phone .

00031_001And take a look at this girl. This is 11 year old Rebekka Hudd who last month should have been celebrating her 21st birthday. Instead, her parents are laying flowers on her grave. She was killed by a driver using his mobile phone. He was fined UKP250.

Rebekka’s mother, Lynda, said regarding drivers who flout the law: “Sometimes I hoot at them and they throw the phones on the floor because they know they are in the wrong. Others just stick their fingers up at you.”

And that, my friends, is a microcosm of what we’re dealing with.

That is why a couple of penalty points and a small fine (in the UK, it’s UKP30) is not good enough. Driving while using your mobile phone is dangerous and needs to be equated to drink-driving.

It’s time to ban mobile phone users from the road. It’s time to send a message that using your mobile while driving is so serious that it will cost you your licence – and for some people that may mean their job and livelihood.

But that’s only half the problem. The other half of the problem is that the laws are not enforced. The only way to effectively enforce them is to have officers on the roads in unmarked cars, ready to pull over unsuspecting drivers who think that they are in the clear because they can’t see flashing blue lights behind them.

If a Nanny State is what is needed to improve safety and save lives then let’s do it.

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