The issue of tractor drivers who are travelling while on their phones has been raised from a number of sources in recent days, as harvest and silage season begins to wind down.
A number of calls have been made for operators to “put it away” when driving powerful agricultural machinery – for both their own safety and the safety of others.
Taking to social media over the weekend, An Garda Síochána Crime Prevention Officer for the Laois-Offaly region Graham Kavanagh underlined the issue, stating:
“On the road this morning with family in car and passed a few neighbours. Too many holding a mobile phone, chatting while driving farm vehicles and machinery. Put it away.
“Farm safety includes road safety,” the Crime Prevention Officer added.
Meanwhile, the same issue was reported in the southeast of the country in Wexford, where an anonymous member of the public got in touch with New Ross Neighbourhood Watch to report the matter.
In some strong views, voiced to the group’s Facebook page with an accompanying photo (above), the road-user said: “What is it with all these young lads driving farm machinery around the roads these days?”
Questioning how the owners of the tractors trust such drivers, the person added:
“It’s a common occurrence lately where [with] nearly every tractor I meet with young people driving they are on their phones.
“[I] was with my sister driving from St. Leonards to Duncannon (my sister was driving), when we came up behind a tractor on the new line which was veering from one side of the road to the other, and making some oncoming traffic drive right into the ditch so as not to be hit and then going into the ditch himself on the left side, throwing lumps of muck, stones and bits of hedging out on the road.
“The driver who looked young enough, maybe late teens [or] early 20s, was talking on his phone and stayed on it for the few miles that we were behind him and God knows how long before and after that.
“Do the owners of these tractors even care what way they are being driven on the roads?” the person asked.
According to the Road Safety Authority (RSA), using a mobile phone makes you four times more likely to crash.
Under Irish law, you can only use your mobile phone while driving if you’re dialling 999 or 112 for an emergency.
If members of An Garda Síochána charge you, it is a fine of €60 and you will get two penalty points, according to the RSA. If you don’t pay the fine, you may be convicted in court, get four penalty points and charged €2,000.
Considering that driver distraction plays a role in 20-30% of all road collisions, phone use and driving is an issue that everyone needs to think differently about, the authority warns.