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

The number of traffic fines for using a mobile phone while driving has doubled over the past five years.

The number has risen 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 received nearly 39,000 tickets over the past five years: 4,665 in 2018, 5,071 in 2019, 5,825 in 2020, 12,403 last year and 10,970 as of October this year. These are issued by LESA, Transport Malta and the Police. Violations issued by the three entities are fed into one central system managed by LESA.

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

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Last week, Prime Minister Robert Abella said discussions were under way to dramatically increase fines for those caught driving. He said this is one of the measures being considered to address the high number of road accidents.

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

What are the rules for using a phone while driving?

Many people mistakenly believe that if they put their phone on speakerphone – rather than to their face during a call – they are not breaking the law. But this is not always the case.

Many people mistakenly believe that if they put their phone on speakerphone, they are not breaking the law

Traffic Police Inspector Nicholas Villa explains that the law is clear: It is illegal to touch your mobile phone while driving – and this also applies even if the person is stuck in traffic.

You can only touch the phone when it’s safely parked – unless you need to call an emergency number to report an accident.

So, whether you’re touching the phone to receive or end a call, forward GPS, change a song in your playlist, or join an online meeting – it’s illegal.

Villa also explained that if one has a car equipped to use hands-free calling, the driver can answer the call as long as they are not touching the phone but using the vehicle’s built-in controls.

The second you touch your phone – before you safely park your car – you’re breaking the law.

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