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Almost 1 in 4 drivers check mobile phone notifications while driving

Mobile phones and distractions 07.07.2022
  • 23% of motorists surveyed admit to checking their notifications while driving
  • 37% of motorists do not regularly practice safe mobile phone use behaviours

The Road Safety Authority (RSA) and An Garda Síochána are once again appealing to drivers to not use their mobile phones while driving. The calls come following the publication of new research which shows almost a quarter of drivers (23%) admit to checking mobile phone notifications while driving.

The Driver Attitudes & Behaviour Survey 2021 found that 37% of motorists surveyed were not practicing safe mobile phone behaviour when driving, which includes turning off your mobile phone, switching it on silent, or keeping it out of sight.

International research has revealed that drivers are four times more likely to be involved in a collision if they use their mobile phone while driving. Despite this, the RSA survey also found that 19% of respondents use their phone to read messages/emails, while 13% write messages/emails from behind the wheel. In addition, 12% of motorists admitted to using their phones to check social media.

Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Ms. Hildegarde Naughton said: “The evidence around the dangers of using your mobile phone while driving is very clear, with drivers four times more likely to have a collision when on their mobile. The new government Road Safety Strategy 2021 to 2030 has identified the need for a review of the penalties for road traffic offences, including mobile phone use while driving. Nobody can claim that they are not aware of the dangers of using a phone while driving. Therefore, if we are to achieve a 50% reduction in deaths and serious injuries by 2030, plus achieve Vision Zero by 2050, we need to seriously look at such measures to eliminate this dangerous behaviour”.

Mr Sam Waide, Chief Executive, Road Safety Authority said: “Driver distraction is thought to play a role in up to 30% of all road collisions. Using your mobile is a significant form of driver distraction as it dangerously impairs your ability to monitor the road ahead and react to any hazards in time. That call, text, or social media post can wait until you are parked up safely, whatever you do don’t take a chance and use your phone while driving. If you know someone is driving, avoid phoning them until they have reached their destination or are safely parked up. Following the publication of the latest statistics, we are asking all motorists to follow safe behaviour when it comes to their mobile phone while driving and either turn it off, switch it to airplane mode, put it on silent or simply put it out of sight”.

Assistant Commissioner, Paula Hilman, Roads Policing and Community Engagement, An Garda Síochána said: “The penalty for using a mobile phone, which includes supporting it with any part of your body, while driving is an automatic three points on your licence and a sixty euro fine. If you accumulate 12 penalty points (7 for novice and learner drivers) in a three-year period, you will be disqualified from driving for 6 months. In 2021 a total of 22,310 notices were issued for ‘Driving a vehicle while holding a mobile phone’. When driving our attention should be focused on one thing only – driving safely and not on a mobile phone. As road-users, we have a responsibility to ourselves, our passengers, and other road-users to keep our attention on the road, so I would encourage all road-users to switch off before you drive off.”

To date in 2022, a total of 86 people have died on Irish roads, 27 more than the same period in 2021.

The government Road Safety Strategy 2021 to 2030 primary target is to reduce the number of deaths and serious injuries by 50% by 2030. It is also the first step towards realising Vision Zero, whereby all deaths and serious injuries are eliminated by 2050.

 For more information on mobile phone safety and the government Road Safety Strategy visit


 Source: Driver Attitudes and Behaviour survey 2021

 Of motorists surveyed

  • 19% use their mobile phone at least sometimes while driving to read messages/emails
  • 13% use their mobile phone at least sometimes while driving to write messages/emails
  • 23% use their mobile phone at least sometimes while driving to check phone notifications
  • 12% use their mobile phone at least sometimes while driving to check social media
  • 9% use their mobile phone at least sometimes while driving to respond to social media posts
  • 7% use their mobile phone at least sometimes while driving to take photos/videos to share on social media

Note, at least sometimes includes answer options: always, often, and sometimes.

 Of motorists surveyed, before setting off to drive

  • 6% regularly turn their mobile phone off
  • 17% regularly switch their mobile phone to silent/ airplane mode
  • 45% regularly place their mobile phone out of sight
  • 63% regularly practice at least one of these safe behaviours, while 37% do not regularly practice any of these safe behaviours. 

Note, regularly in this context means “at least once a week”.

 Driver Attitude and Behaviour Survey 2021 

Sample size: 1,220 motorists aged 17+ 

Fieldwork conducted in November 2021

 Mobile phones potentially distract a driver in several ways (Dragutinovic & Twisk, 2005, p. 24):

  • Physically: instead of focusing on the physical tasks required by driving (e.g. steering or gear changing), drivers have to use one or both of their hands to manipulate the phone.
  • Visually: mobile phones could visually distract drivers in two ways:
    • Firstly, drivers have to move their eyes from the road and focus on the mobile phone in order to be able to use it.
    • Secondly, while talking on a mobile phone, even if drivers’ eyes are focused on the road, they 'look but do not see'.
  • Auditory: the focus of drivers' attention moves from the road environment to the sounds of the mobile phone and the conversation. This particularly applies when the sound quality is poor.
  • Cognitively: instead of focusing their attention and thoughts on driving, drivers divert their attention and focus on the topic of the phone conversation