New regulations making it an offence to send or read a text message from a mobile phone while driving, come into effect in Ireland tomorrow, 1st May 2014.
Legislation already in place makes it an offence to HOLD a mobile phone while driving. Before now, the legislation has not applied to mobile phones NOT being held, i.e. hands-free devices.
Drivers caught will be penalised under section 102 of the Road Traffic Act 1961, as amended. This means that cases will come to court and, if convicted, the penalty will be:
- €1,000 maximum fine for a first offence
- €2,000 maximum fine for a second or subsequent offence
- €2,000 maximum fine and/or up to three months in prison for a third or subsequent offence within a twelve month period.
Contrary to some misleading media reports, they do not make it an offence to speak via a hands-free device. Nor do they make it an offence to touch a button on a hand-free device in order to answer a phone call.
Evidence shows that driver distraction is one of the major risk factors in causing road traffic collisions. Reading text messages, and especially composing text messages, makes drivers take their eyes and minds off the road, and can create serious risks.
Further information: Department of Transport Information Note