Survey: Motorists' behaviour worsening

The behaviour of Irish motorists is getting worse, with a high number of drivers speeding, drink-driving or using their mobile phones at the wheel, a survey found today.

Figures showed eight out of 10 people had broken the speed limit, most by at least 10km/hr, while 44% had driven after drinking alcohol and three quarters had used their mobile phones while driving.

In the wake of the report by FBD Insurance and Advance Pitstop, there were calls for better policing of the country's roads as the only effective way to stamp out the dangerous behaviour that is leading to increasing numbers of severe accidents.

FBD's director of marketing and sales, Adrian Taheny, said the findings for 2005, which were slightly worse than last year, were a cause for concern.

"The key message coming through this year is that the behaviour and attitudes has disimproved and that's worrying," he said.

"Speeding is the major cause of accidents, yet 80% of motorists knowingly break the speed limit," he said.

Three quarters of motorists used their mobile phones while driving, despite only 35% having hands-free kits, and half have used their handsets to text, he said.

Drink-driving is another serious problem on the roads, with 40% of motorists admitting to having got behind the wheel after consuming three or more units and more than half of those questioned saying they had travelled in a car with a driver who was under the influence.

Mr Taheny said the only positive note from the survey of 745 drivers was that younger people were less likely to drink-drive than older motorists.

He said motorists were aware of their bad behaviour, and had said they believed the most effective way to change attitudes was to enforce the law.

Better policing topped the poll of what actions could be taken to improve road safety, mentioned first by 29% of people, followed by improving Irish roads.

"It's not changing the laws or increasing the speed limits. It's policing.

"If we know we're likely to be caught, we're more likely to change our behaviour," Mr Taheny said.

Other issues highlighted by the report include a drop in the number of drivers insisting back-seat passengers wear seatbelts from 80% last year to 73%, and a rise in the number of people experiencing road rage.

There were also a higher number of drivers becoming tired at the wheel - up from 39% to 45% - while one in eight had fallen asleep while driving.

Terry Lennon, managing director of Advance Pitstop said the public was still not heeding the road-safety message.

"There is an increased awareness of road-safety campaigns. However, this does not translate into improved or changed driving behaviour.

"Until this happens, the number of serious road accidents on our roads will continue to increase," he warned.

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