More motorists booked for using mobile phones while driving

Campaign banners in Braddell Road (left) are put up to discourage actions such as this (above) - a motorist using his phone while driving in Unity Street yesterday. More than 400 banners promoting responsible use of mobile phones while driving have b
Campaign banners in Braddell Road (left) are put up to discourage actions such as this (above) - a motorist using his phone while driving in Unity Street yesterday. More than 400 banners promoting responsible use of mobile phones while driving have been put up along more than 10 roads across Singapore.PHOTOS: KUA CHEE SIONG, JOSEPH NAIR FOR THE SUNDAY TIMES
Campaign banners in Braddell Road (left) are put up to discourage actions such as this (above) - a motorist using his phone while driving in Unity Street yesterday. More than 400 banners promoting responsible use of mobile phones while driving have b
Campaign banners in Braddell Road (left) are put up to discourage actions such as this (above) - a motorist using his phone while driving in Unity Street yesterday. More than 400 banners promoting responsible use of mobile phones while driving have been put up along more than 10 roads across Singapore.PHOTOS: KUA CHEE SIONG, JOSEPH NAIR FOR THE SUNDAY TIMES

2,755 drivers booked in first nine months, compared to 1,893 in same period last year

The number of motorists booked for using their mobile phones while driving has risen sharply.

In just nine months this year, the Traffic Police issued 2,755 summonses for the offence, compared to 1,893 summons over the same period last year.

There was a 61.5 per cent spike in summonses issued from July to September, from the 1,705 issued up to June.

The ongoing problem led Korean electronics firm Samsung to launch a road safety campaign on Oct 17. The initiative, targeted at motorists who cannot leave their phones alone while on the roads, is also supported by the Traffic Police.

"Using a mobile phone while driving affects a driver's ability to control his vehicle and to react to potential hazards on the roads," said a Traffic Police spokesman. "It makes the driver more vulnerable to accidents, posing a danger to himself and even other road users."

Samsung's "The road comes first" campaign aims to drive home key messages, such as "Drive. Don't text" and "Drive. Don't call".

More than 400 banners promoting responsible use of mobile phones while driving have been put up along more than 10 roads across Singapore.

With technological advancement in mobile phones, users have got into the habit of staying connected all the time.

"This 'always-on' mentality can mean that people use their smartphones at inappropriate times, such as when driving," said Samsung Asia's vice-president of marketing, Ms Irene Ng. "As the mobile industry leader, Samsung is taking the responsibility to encourage drivers to put aside their phones while driving, and focus on the roads."

As part of the campaign, which will run until January, Samsung has launched a Facebook application calling for motorists to pledge not to use their mobile phones while driving.

It also plans to introduce an application called "Eyes on the Road" to help motorists turn off their mobile phones when they get into their vehicles, by activating the "Drive Safe" mode.

Under the Road Traffic Act, first-time phone-and-drive offenders can be fined up to $1,000, or jailed for up to six months, or face both a fine and jail term. Repeat offenders get up to double the penalty.

All offenders are slapped with 12 demerit points and have their mobile phones seized by the Traffic Police for investigations.

It is, however, not an offence to use the mobile phone when the vehicle is stationary.

There have been no reports here of accidents involving drivers using their mobile phones and the Traffic Police does not track such accidents.

The vice-chairman of the Singapore Road Safety Council, Mr Gopinath Menon, however, does not rule out the possibility of drivers causing accidents because they are more focused on a phone call than on the road.

"A lot of people think they can multi-task by using their mobile phones and paying attention on the road. But it is impossible, because when you text, you take your eyes off the road."

But despite the rising number of offenders, he did not think there was a need to toughen the law.

"The law is already there. Look at drink-driving, it has become anti-social. Phone-driving must also come through that way and the key is through education," he said.

joycel@sph.com.sg