Police are to impose tougher penalties on drivers who drive dangerously or send text messages behind the wheel. Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin has indicated fines for using a hand-held device while driving will be increased from £60 to £90, a fifty per cent jump.
The number of points added to a convicted person’s license will remain at three, despite calls from some quarters for it to be increased to six.
The higher fine will apply to a number of offences, including using a handheld phone to make telephone calls, or using Twitter, Facebook or the Internet while at the wheel. Those caught running a red light will be hit with the same fixed penalty, as will those who engage in other forms of dangerous driving, such as cutting up other drivers, lighting a cigarette, eating and drinking at the wheel, driving at an inappropriate speed and hogging the middle lane.
Speaking at a road safety conference in London, Mr McLoughlin said: “We want to send a clear message to dangerous drivers: If you continue to show complete disregard for the safety of other road users, we will catch you — and we will punish you.”
The Transport Secretary isn’t without fault. “On occasions in the past I’ve used my mobile phone when driving,” he admitted. However he conceded the idea that ‘we all do it, don’t we?’ was not an acceptable defence.
A recent poll by the AA found that 42 per cent of drivers admit to using hand-held mobiles illegally and 20 per cent admitted to having sent a text at the wheel. Research by Which? concluded sending a text or tweeting while driving caused a 79 per cent drop in a driver’s attention — nearly seven times more than in someone at the legal drink-drive limit.
Earlier this year a texting pilot was blamed for a fatal helicopter crash in Missouri, USA.