Donegal drivers are not heeding road safety messages a senior garda has warned after figures revealed a massive increase in the number of driver using mobile phones illegally.
Provisional Garda figures show a 187 per cent rise in drivers detected using mobile phones illegally between November and January in Donegal compared to the same period 12 months a year ago. The number of people caught not wearing a seatbelt has also shown a worrying increase, rising by 21 per cent over the same period.
Drink driving figures have dropped by 6 per between November and January but the head of the traffic corps in the county had warned that the offence is not declining significantly. Detection figures in the neighbouring Sligo-Leitrim division have dropped 27 per cent in the same period.
Eleven drivers were arrested for drink driving over the Easter period up until yesterday morning. That is the same figure for the whole Easter period last year, which ends on Tuesday morning.
In November 28 drivers were caught using mobile phones with the figure increasing to 41 in December and 42 in January. Around 35 to 40 people are being caught each month not wearing a seatbelt.
Drivers caught using a mobile phone illegally will receive a €80 on the spot fine and two penalty points. Drivers not wearing seatbelts and allowing passengers not to wear them face the face penalties.
Inspector Michael Harrison said the rise in such serious road traffic offences is extremely worrying and shows the message on road safety is not getting through.
“There is a perception out there that it is safe to drive while using a mobile phone and it is an epidemic at the moment. We are clamping down on it. We are observing people using the mobile phone and we are following them and stopping them.”
He said it is even more worrying that so many people are still not wearing seatbelts. “In the year 2011 people are getting into a car and not wearing a seatbelt. I am concerned about driver behaviour considering that seatbelt detections are up and mobile phone detections are up 187 per cent, all be it from a low base. We are concerned that people are not taking road safety seriously enough - the safety of themselves, the safety of passengers and the safety of other road users.
“After all the education that is being given out almost on a daily basis people are getting into a car and not wearing a seatbelt and there is a perception out there that people think it is safe to use a mobile phone while driving. It is absolutely one of the most dangerous things you can do because you are not concentrating on driving.”