Steeper fines proposed for cell phone use while driving

The State Police (VP) is about to initiate amendments for steeper fines for cell phone use while driving, Normunds Krapsis, the head of the traffic safety department, told Latvian Radio on Wednesday.

According to data by the Road Traffic and Safety Directorate (CSDD) and social pollster Latvijas Fakti, one in five drivers use their phones "often" when driving.

One in six admits to using the internet or texting behind the wheel.

"We were surprised that quite many admitted to breaking the law," CSDD representative Ieva Bērziņa told Latvian Radio. "Tragedies can happen in such moments."

An awareness campaign is planned to inform the society about the problem. Along with that, the CSDD ponders introducing steeper fines.

As of now, persons caught using their cell phone while driving can get away with a warning or a €15 fine.

It's completely different from countries like Ireland where it's seen as an offence for which a person can be imprisoned.

Krapsis said that the State Police is about to introduce amendments to the law. He added that, in the first eight months of 2015, 2323 drivers have been fined, 400 more than last year. Krapsis admitted that it's hard to catch those who use their phones while driving, as they hide their phones when they see the police.

While Artūrs Priednieks, head of the School for safe driving, said that there's an alarming tendency that, while before people used phones mainly for talking, now they are used for communicating on social networks.

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