A suitable punishment for drivers that use their mobile phone

If you take a look at the passing traffic in Dublin, it generally only takes a minute or two until you spot a driver using their mobile phone.

Clearly some drivers are not worried about the prospect of 3 points on their driver’s licence, or a mandatory court appearance and fine of up to €1,000 if they’re caught texting.  Or the fact that they’re 4 times more likely to crash when distracted on the phone.

So I got thinking about a more suitable punishment, that would be reasonably easy to implement, and would be an added deterrent to people. The Garda and courts, in addition to the other penalties, would be able to enforce a 6-month outgoing call/text ban on an offender’s mobile.

The ban on outgoing calls/texts would remove the temptation from drivers to pick up their phones when driving, and it would be an enormous inconvenience to offenders generally. Incoming calls/text would still be allowed for safety purposes, as would outgoing calls to the emergency services.

Of course, there’s nothing stopping people switching to a new phone number, but that’s a massive inconvenience in itself, and would be embarrassing to explain to friends and family.

Avoiding Car Hire Additional Charges

With online booking comparison sites (I like to use CarTrawler) and increased competition in the car hire market, there are some great bargains to be had. But when you turn up to hire the car, you can often be stung for some very expensive extras.

Earlier this month, we hired a ‘compact’ car in Salerno from Budget Car Rental, and it cost us €242 for a week, which is a pretty decent price. However, when we turned up to collect the car, the agent tried to sell a whole load of additional things.

First off, he informed us that our rental only included ‘basic’ insurance, which has a damage excess of €1,500. This means that if we were involved in any accident, we would be charged an additonal €1,500 to fix the car – and with the stories we’d heard of Italian drivers, we though an accident was more likely than not! And if the car was stolen the excess to pay would be a staggering €2,299!

He encourages us to reduce these excesses to zero, by upgrading the insurance cover to the ‘complete cover’ option for the price of €21.78 per day – that’s an additional €154! And to add in Personal Accident Insurance (which arguably might not be needed if you already have travel insurance) it would be another €12.10 per day – or €85 for the week. That’s a total of €239, which almost doubles the price of the rental.

Luckily, we had been forewarned of this insurance scam by a friend of ours that rents cars quite often. She put us on to Car Hire Excess Insurance, which can be used to provide the same protection against huge excess payments, but for significantly less money. Within Europe they charge just €2.99 per day to reduce your excess to zero, and if you hire a lot of cars you can get an annual policy for €49.99, which is still a third of the price the rental agent was going to charge us.

In addition, I noted that these were the prices for the other ‘optional extras’:

  • Under age driver (21-25 years old) – €18.15 per day
  • Additional driver – €5.00 per day
  • Booster seat – €7.26 per day
  • Toddler seat – €24.81 per day
  • Infant seat – €24.81 per day
  • GPS – €14.52 per day

If you had a bunch of young children with you, it would cost an absolute fortune!  In fact I’m sure it would be cheaper to bring child seats with you on holiday, even as excess luggage on a flight, rather than pay these prices.

I did consider whether we might need a GPS to get around, but at €102 for the week, it was cheaper and easier to use the navigation functions on our smartphones, even if it did incur mobile data roaming charges.

Learner Drivers

A loophole in Irish driving laws is about to be closed from midnight tonight.

In recent times, learner drivers on their second provisional licence have been allowed on the roads on their own. However, from tonight they will now have to be accompanied by a qualified driver – someone who has held their full licence for 2 years or more. (see Road Safety Authority announcement [PDF])

The exception that allowed learner drivers on the roads unaccompanied originally arose because of delays in drivers getting a test date. Several years ago it was no unheard of for learners to wait up to 2 years for a test. However this situation has now been reversed, and it takes no more than a couple of weeks to get a driving test now.

The problem, however, is that many people haven’t felt the need to apply for a test. Until now they’ve been able to legally drive around without bothering – which at one point meant there was an estimated 1 in 7 unqualified drivers on the Irish roads. That’s gone down recently as learners have rushed to sign up for tests, ahead of this law change.

However, there are still as many as 92,000 learner drivers affected by the new law — each of which faces a minimum fine of €1,000 if caught driving on their own.

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