Figures reveal "serious problem" with phone driving conviction rate

New figures suggest only a third of people caught driving while on the phone are being convicted in the courts

Figures reveal "serious problem" with phone driving conviction rate

File photo: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire/PA Images

AA Ireland has warned that there is a “serious problem” with the administration of Ireland’s laws controlling the use of mobile phones while driving.

It comes after new figures revealed that only a third of people caught driving while on the phone are being convicted in the courts.

According to the statistics – supplied to Independents 4 Change TD Tommy Broughan by the Minister for Justice – 12,143 people were listed in the district court for using their phone while driving over a 26-month-period between January 2015 and March 2017.

The court listings led to 4,428 convictions – with 3,566 cases struck out on the basis that the summons was never served, 3,036 struck out for other reasons and 1,224 listed as “persons not convicted.”

The statistics were analysed by road safety group Parc and published in The Irish Times this morning.

Serious administration problem

On The Pat Kenny Show, Conor Faughnan, director of consumer affairs at AA Ireland, said the data shows that, “something has got to be wrong there.”

“This is not normal data that you are looking at,” he said. “This is data that indicates there is a serious problem with the administration.”

“Now whether that is the court’s administration or the court service administration, the gardaí administration – lord knows maybe it is An Post – I don’t know but whatever it is, it is clearly unsatisfactory.”

He said the figures raise question marks over whether the gardaí are catching enough people at the primary level – as well as over what is happening to those who are sent forward to the courts.

“The ordinary gardaí doing their job on the road every day; they are catching 500 people every month, so there is a reasonable level of activity that is occurring there,” he said.

“But for two thirds of those to disappear en route to court and for no successful conviction to arise – it is an embarrassing number.”

Proper enforcement

Mr Faughnan said Ireland’s road safety statute book is just “just about as tough as anything on the planet” but warned it “doesn’t matter if we are not enforcing it and carrying it through.”

“The legislation on paper is fine,” he said. “If you read Irish legislation and stack it up against that which exists anywhere else in the European Union or any of those best practice road safety countries around the world – Irish law is pretty good.”

“What we write down is pretty good. Our ability to administer it and follow it through appears pitiful.”

A recent AA survey found that almost half of Ireland's motorists encounter other drivers using their phones on a daily basis.

You can listen back to Mr Faughnan’s full exchange with Jonathan Healy on The Pat Kenny Show here: