Gardaí are unable to prosecute people caught FaceTiming friends and watching videos on their phones while driving, due to Ireland’s road traffic laws.
The Policing Authority yesterday heard that there is still no law against ‘distracted driving’ in Ireland.
Assistant Commissioner Paula Hilman, who is in charge of road traffic policing, told a meeting of the authority yesterday that drivers can’t be prosecuted unless they are caught physically holding a device.
She said Gardaí had raised the issue with the Department of Justice.
“The offence is holding a mobile phone,” she said.
“What we are seeing now is people watching, having FaceTime messages and calls and people watching sport.
“There is no offence of distracted driving so it is something we have raised and certainly at our partnership meetings we have raised that because the offence is actually holding the mobile phone.”
Under the current law, drivers cannot hold a mobile phone while driving – with holding defined as “holding the phone by hand or supporting or cradling it with another part of the body”.
The only time drivers are allowed to hold a phone is when they are contacting emergency services or responding to a genuine emergency.
Since April 2014, it is also illegal to send or read a text message or email while driving.
While it is not technically illegal to FaceTime or watch videos unless you are holding your phone, if you fail to concentrate on the road, you can be prosecuted for dangerous driving, careless driving or driving without due care and attention.
'You could well be prosecuted'
Transport Consultant Conor Faughnan told Newstalk anyone watching a video while driving could find themselves in court.
“Watching a video on your device while it is hands-free is a bit ambiguous on law,” he said.
“It is not an immediate penalty point offence because you’re not holding it in your hand; however, you could readily be prosecuted for driving without due care and attention or even for dangerous driving.
“Now that is more difficult for a guard to do; they have to take you to court but make no mistake as a driver, as a behaviour it is illegal.
“You shouldn’t do it and you could well be prosecuted."
Drivers caught holding a mobile phone or sending text messages can get a fixed charge notice of €120 and three penalty points.
On conviction in court, you will get five penalty points and a fine of up to €2,000.