54pc of Irish motorists admit using mobile while driving

28 Feb 2011

Irish car owners are continuing to use their mobile phones while driving, the AA has said. Almost 54pc admit to having used a mobile occasionally while driving and more than 9pc admit surfing the web on their smartphones while behind the wheel.

Despite numerous safety awareness campaigns and the fact it is the second most common penalty point offence in Ireland after speeding, AA Ireland warned that handheld mobile phone usage while driving has gone up since 2009.

Some 53.8pc of motorists surveyed in the AA’s most recent Motor Insurance Poll, conducted last January, admitted to using a handheld mobile phone at least occasionally while driving.

This figure represents an increase of 3.4pc since May 2009, when the AA last posed the question to motorists.

Following this upward trend, the number of motorists texting while driving also appears to have risen.

Some 40.7pc of the 22,000 motorists who participated in the survey said they text while driving, up 8.4pc since May 2009. Around 9.3pc of drivers surveyed also admitted to surfing the web via their smartphone while in charge of a vehicle.

Texting while driving more common amongst females

Texting while driving is slightly more common among female motorists, with 43.3pc saying they commit the offence at least occasionally compared with 38.9pc of men. Inversely, male motorists are more likely to go online via their smartphone while driving. Some 11.2pc of men surveyed said they were guilty of this compared to 6.5pc of women.   

“Mobile phones are so small, compact and user friendly these days it’s easy to see where the temptation lies,” explained John Farrell, director of AA Motor Insurance.

“However, research shows that you’re four times more likely to crash your car when on a mobile phone.

“Dividing your attention between the two tasks will impair your control of your vehicle and reduce your awareness of what is going on around you.”

An Offaly bad habit

Offaly residents, followed by those living in counties Kerry and Leitrim, are revealed as most likely to chat on their mobile phones while driving. About 63.1pc, 61.2pc and 61pc of motorists in these counties respectively use their mobile phones at least occasionally while driving. 

Leitrim residents emerged as most likely to send texts while driving, with 47.5pc admitting to the driving offence. The AA Motor Insurance Survey also suggests that Dubliners are the most likely to dabble on their web-access phones while driving, with 10.8pc admitting to the dangerous habit.

“When you use a mobile phone while driving you risk the safety of yourself and others,” Farrell said.

“You could also be deemed guilty of contributory negligence by your motor insurance provider which could affect your claim in the event of a crash.

“So please put your phone away until you’ve reached your destination,” Farrell said.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years