Police have been told to start seizing mobile devices after a road traffic accident, no matter how minor, to ascertain whether those involved were calling or texting at the time.
The guidelines issued by the Association of Chief Police Officers are a response to more than 500 people killed or seriously injured every year in the UK by drivers concentrating on their mobile instead of the road.
It is hoped being able to prosecute those who ignore the law will make others think twice before sending a cheeky text message or checking their Twitter feed.
Road safety charity Brake welcomed the move. “We are fully supportive of the efforts by the police to clamp down on mobile phone use at the wheel. Offenders need to know they will be caught, they will be prosecuted, and there will be serious consequences,” spokesperson Ed Morrow commented.
A proposal to double the number of penalty points given from being caught on a mobile from three to six is another measure being considered in the fight against ‘drive-texting’.
Critics have highlighted safety and social concerns. Getting your phone confiscated after a very minor incident could leave you stranded miles away from home without the ability to call for help. In the event of a serious accident or tragedy, meanwhile, it would be impossible to alert relatives.
“I am 100 per cent against anyone texting while driving and those caught deserve everything they get. But I’m worried police could overdo it, just because someone is involved in a minor shunt, surely it shouldn’t mean they should lose their phone,” Hugh Bladon of the Alliance of British Drivers commented in a Yahoo news report.
It is unclear where the line will be drawn when police confiscate a device. While a text message or phone call made during or just before a crash is obvious, what about if you use your phone as a satnav? How can you differentiate an email sent using voice commands from one typed out by hand?
10,000 offenders in 2012 chose to do a mandatory safety course instead of take the points, according to official figures.
Under the new penalty points system two instances of being caught on a mobile while at the wheel would result in a driving ban.
Is this a much-needed change or a step too far? Spill the beans below.