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39,000 tickets for driving while using mobile phones in five years

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The number of traffic violations doled out for using mobile phones while driving has more than doubled over the past five years.

The number has increased from just over 4,600 in 2018 to nearly 11,000 so far this year, according to data obtained from the Local Enforcement Systems Agency.

Motorists have received nearly 39,000 such contraventions over the past five years: 4,665 in 2018, 5,071 in 2019, 5,825 in 2020, 12,403 last year and 10,970 until October this year. They were issued by LESA, Transport Malta and the police. Contraventions issued from the three entities are entered into one centralized system administered by LESA.

At the moment, motorists are fined €100 when caught using their mobile phone while driving, and get between three and six penalty points deducted. Drivers may lose their license for two months if they accumulate 12 penalty points over a period of 12 months.

Last week, Prime Minister Robert Abela said discussions were under way to drastically increase the fines for those caught on the mobile at the wheel. He said this was one of the measures being considered to tackle the large number of road accidents.

Over the past three years there have been more than 800 traffic accidents resulting in fatalities or injuries, according to information given in parliament. This year there have been 22 fatalities so far.

What are the rules for using a phone while driving?

Many people mistakenly think that if they put their phone on speaker – as opposed to holding it to their face while on a call – they are not breaking the law. But this is not always the case.

Many people mistakenly think that if they put their phone on speaker they are not breaking the law

Traffic police inspector Nicholas Vella explains that the law is clear: it is illegal to touch your mobile phone while driving – and this also applies even if one is stuck in traffic.

You can only touch the phone if parked safely – unless you need to dial the emergency number to report an accident.

So, whether you are touching the phone to take or end a call, re-route the GPS, change a song on your playlist, or join an online meeting – it is illegal.

Vella also explained that if one has a car that is equipped to use hands-free calls, the driver can take the call as long as they do not touch the phone but use the controls built into the vehicle.

The second you touch your phone – before you are safely parked – you are breaking the law.

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