19/12/2003

Mobile phone used while driving to be an offence in NI

New measures to make using a hand held mobile phone when driving an offence will come into effect in Northern Ireland on 1 February 2004.

The move was announced today by Criminal Justice Minister, John Spellar and Environment Minister Angela Smith.

Outlining the measures to make the use of hand held mobile telephones while driving a specific offence, Mr Spellar said: "These new measures will be in place in Northern Ireland from 1 February 2004 and will attract a £30 fixed penalty, or a fine of up to £1,000 on conviction in court.

"There is no doubt that driving whilst using a mobile phone is dangerous, putting both the driver and other road users at risk. I have been working closely with my Ministerial colleague Angela Smith, to bring forward new regulations to mirror provisions on the use of hand held mobile phones whilst driving which were introduced in Great Britain on 1 December. Work is progressing to implement the regulations in Northern Ireland as soon as possible.

"The new regulations are a positive step towards reducing road traffic casualties and creating this new offence sends out a strong signal that the Government will not tolerate the use of hand-held mobile phones whilst driving."

The new provisions follow a wider consultation on road traffic which was launched by Des Browne earlier in the year.

These new measures form part of the Government's wider strategy to improve road safety in Northern Ireland and to tackle the problems of dangerous and careless driving. Next month will see penalties increased from ten to fourteen years for causing death by dangerous driving and causing death by careless driving through drink and drugs.

(MB)

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