UUP: Double fines for using mobile phones while driving

Northern Ireland should consider doubling the penalty points and fines given out to drivers caught using a mobile phone, according to UUP MLA Roy Beggs.

Mr Beggs’ comments come after figures were released that show nearly 900 people were convicted in just one year in Northern Ireland for using a mobile phone while driving.

The East Antrim MLA said: “I am aware that on mainland GB penalty point notices will be doubled from three to six points from early 2017 for mobile phone misuse.

“Given the numbers prosecuted in NI, it would seem that there is a need to review the penalty points and fines as a means of deterrent against mobile phone misuse while driving.

“I am aware that fines in Britain are also to double from £100 to £200 in conjunction with the increased penalty points, so this is another option that could be considered as part of a wider strategy to reduce mobile phone misuse and could save lives on our roads.

“It is shocking to learn that nearly 900 people have been convicted in 2015 alone for using a mobile phone whilst driving.

“In addition to this, it is outlined in the ministerial response that nearly 3,000 mobile phone offenses have been registered in the past three years which shows the ongoing nature and significant extent of the problem on our roads.”

Mr Beggs, a member of the justice committee at Stormont, added: “Educating drivers and passengers of the dangers of driver distraction is vital. With some almost addicted to their smartphone, there needs to be greater awareness of how delayed reaction could be costly and indeed life changing.”

The figures were released by Justice Minister Claire Sugden in response to an Assembly question from Mr Beggs. Ms Sugden said there were 878 convictions for using a mobile phone while driving in 2015.

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