Motorists who think it’s acceptable to be on their mobile phone while driving could soon face harsher penalties as part of a crackdown.
A recent government proposal would see fixed penalty fines for those caught on the blower raised from £100 to £150, while the number of penalty points will increase from three to four – meaning you would only need to be caught three times to be banned instead of four.
HGV drivers, meanwhile, will be given six penalty points instead of three – bringing the total number of offences before a ban down to two – and face the same £50 fixed penalty notice increase as other motorists.
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin stated: “Using a mobile phone at the wheel is reckless and costs lives – I want to see it become a social taboo like not wearing a seatbelt.”
“The message is clear: keep your hands on the wheel, not your phone. If you keep taking calls while at the wheel, you could end up being banned from the road,” he added.
Mobile phone usage was a contributing factor in 21 fatal accidents and 84 serious accidents in 2014, according to government figures.
Motoring safety groups have welcomed the proposals, but GEM Motoring Assist chief executive David Williams said it was a missed opportunity to clamp down on drink-drivers:
“We are convinced that a reduction in the drink-drive limit from the current 0.08g/dl is long overdue. Latest estimates2 show that a reduction in the limit to 0.05g/dl in 2010 would have saved 25 lives and prevented around 95 serious injuries in each of the following three years.
“Therefore any political motivation for keeping a limit that was set in 1967 needs to be replaced by an agenda that has public safety at its core.”
Others argue the harsher punishments really only work if there are police around to enforce them. Freight Transport Association head of national and regional policy Christopher Snelling said:
“Use of a mobile phone whilst driving is clearly dangerous and illegal. We would note that while penalty points can act as a deterrent, such measures have more impact if there is a genuine chance of being caught.
“Consequently we feel increased targeted enforcement against high risk HGV operators in key areas such as London is more important than this change.”
AA president Edmund King is in aggreement there needs to be more police on the beat: “We welcome this government crackdown and hope it makes drivers hang up when behind the wheel.
“We also need to see more cops in cars to help enforce the law and send out a strong warning to drivers who assume they will just get away with it. The increased points will mean some drivers lose their licences more quickly and is likely to hike up their insurance premiums.”
Tim Shallcross of the Institute of Advanced Motorists went as far to say the proposals are flawed given that the previous fine increases made no difference:
“The Department for Transport’s own research this year showed that when they doubled the penalty from £50 to £100 in 2013 it made no discernible difference whatsoever.
“What deters people from using mobile phones is the fear of being caught and, frankly, with fewer police on the roads that possibility is becoming less and less.”
A total of 1,775 people were killed and 22,807 people were seriously injured in reported road accidents in 2014, government figures have revealed.
Another aspect of the proposal would be to allow learner drivers to go on the motorway before passing their test to help make them more experienced.
Is the government doing enough to reduce the menace of drivers who still use their phones while at the wheel or is the proposal a waste of time? Let us know.