Tyrone motorists appear more addicted to their mobile phones than their counterparts in the rest of Northern Ireland after shock new figures reveal that more than a third of all convictions for the offence occurred at local courts.
Of the 2,872 drivers successfully prosecuted in Northern Ireland for using a mobile phone in the past three years, 896 were in the Fermanagh and Tyrone court division.
The horrendous figures, which were released by the Department of Justice, show that there were 219 such convictions in Tyrone and Fermanagh courts last year, the highest in the North, followed by Belfast, which had 151 convictions.
Ards had the lowest total at 78. The local figure is down on last year’s total, which was one of the highest on record, 359, and three times higher than the next highest court area.
Drivers aged under 30 are the biggest culprits for driving while using a mobile phone with more than one in 20 (5.2 per cent) being caught flouting the law across UK, a national study has found. Since the Dungannon area has one of the youngest populations in Northern Ireland, this perhaps partially explains the high number of local offenders.
Under new rules expected to come in next year, drivers will get six points on their licence and face a £200 fine.
The new rules, which will apply only to England, Scotland and Wales, could also see more experienced drivers going to court if they offend twice, and facing possible fines of up to £1,000 and at least a six-month driving ban.
The penalties, which will increase from three penalty points and a £100 fine, will be accompanied by a high-profile government Think! campaign.
The Department for Infrastructure said there were no plans to change the penalties in Northern Ireland, but it “will continue to monitor changes being made in Britain to see what can be learned”.