ALMOST a third of all drivers convicted in court of using a mobile phone behind the wheel are caught in Fermanagh and Tyrone.
Of the 2,872 drivers successfully prosecuted in Northern Ireland for using a mobile phone in the past three years, 896 were in the Fermanagh and Tyrone court division.
That means almost 300 people a year are being caught in Fermanagh and Tyrone, three times the amount in Belfast.
The next highest figure is in Derry, where an average of 160 people have been prosecuted for driving with a mobile phone each year since 2013.
There has been a steady drop in the number of convictions for driving with a mobile phone since 2013, falling from over 1,000 cases to 878 last year.
Meanwhile, Infrastructure Minister Chris Hazzard has indicated he has no plans to raise the penalty.
The current penalty is a £60 fine – £100 in Britain – and three points, although the British government has proposed doubling the punishment to £200 and six points.
Mr Hazzard said his department was not included in the consultation by the Department of Transport.
He said: “Legal sanctions are useful and may improve the future driving behaviours of those drivers who are caught. However, they have less impact on the total population of drivers – many of whom will not be caught. The police cannot be at every corner and cannot be in every vehicle.
“Public attitudes therefore need to change. I want to make the use of a mobile phone while driving as socially unacceptable as not wearing a seatbelt and as shameful as drink driving.”
The minister added: “I believe that driver education, together with an effective legislative deterrent, represents the best approach to tackling this problem.”
The figures were released in response to a written Assembly question from UUP East Antrim MLA Roy Beggs, who said further education for drivers was “vital”.
The Justice Committee member said: “Given the numbers of people prosecuted in NI, it would seem that there is a need to review penalty points and fines as a means of deterrent.”
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