Legislation brought forward by Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon to increase penalty points and fines for those using a hand-held mobile phone while driving comes into effect tomorrow (Wednesday) for all motorists in Northern Ireland.
Speaking in the Assembly today Minister Mallon said: “I have made it clear that I take a zero tolerance approach to irresponsible behaviour on the roads. Despite the risks of using a mobile phone whilst driving, too many people continue to flout the law on a daily basis.
“This new legislation is a strong signal to those willing to take risks on the road that this behaviour will not be tolerated. From today, the penalties for using a hand-held mobile phone while driving will be increased to six points and a £200 fine, bringing these in line with Scotland, Wales and England.
“If you are caught for a second time (or accrue 12 points on your licence) there will be no more chances – you will face a court hearing, disqualification and fines of up to £1,000. Newly-qualified drivers, who have a ceiling of six points for the first two years after passing the test will face an immediate ban.
“But the consequences of using a mobile phone while driving go far beyond the loss of a licence. Distraction while driving is one of the main causes of road traffic collisions on our roads. Many of those collisions causing serious injury and some resulting in loss of life.
“My message today couldn’t be clearer – drive responsibly, put your phone down or risk losing your licence. This is not a minor offence and you will not get away with it.”
The Minister added: “The changes coming into force tomorrow will I hope go some way to changing drivers’ attitudes and behaviour around the illegal use of mobile phones. We need to call time on this offence and I hope that the loss of a licence will be a price no driver will be willing to pay.”
PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Jonathan Roberts said: “We welcome this new legislation which underlines our very straightforward road safety message. When you are driving, your focus should be on the road and what other road users are doing, free from any distraction.
“Our figures clearly indicate that driver distraction, together with inappropriate speed, drink and drug driving are consistently the main causes of the most serious crashes which kill and injure people on roads across Northern Ireland. No phone call; No message; No social media update is more important than the potentially catastrophic consequence of not paying full attention when driving a vehicle.”