NI considers jail for chatty drivers

Solicitors in Northern Ireland could see the number of cases of road traffic accidents fall if motorists in the province are put off using their mobile phone while driving by the threat of jail.

According to the Belfast Telegraph, Northern Ireland is considering adopting legislation introduced in England, which could mean unsafe drivers face a two-year prison term if caught using a mobile phone behind the wheel.

While the province's motorists can currently only incur three penalty points and a fine of up to £2,500 for using a handheld phone while driving, solicitors in Northern Ireland are still seeing too many road traffic accidents.

According to guidelines from the Crown Prosecution Service in England, if the person using a phone while driving is unsafe, he or she can now be charged with dangerous driving, which carries a sentence of up to two years in jail.

Research by the Transport Research Laboratory showed that solicitors may see more cases of accidents caused by people driving while on the phone than those caused by drinking alcohol.

It seems that some firms have already tried to curb claims for professional negligence by safeguarding against accidents caused by drivers using mobile phones.

Stephen McCausland, director of Northern Ireland firm Value Cab, told the Belfast Telegraph: "All drivers that work for us - there are now over 600 - work within driver guidelines, one of which stipulates that mobile phones should not be used in the car while a customer is in the car, even with hands-free."

In 2006, Northern Ireland's drivers received 19,074 fixed-penalty notices for using a mobile phone while behind the wheel.

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