Drivers 'respond to high penalties'

The penalty for people caught talking on a hand-held mobile phone while driving could be raised, transport secretary Lord Adonis has said.

The penalty, which was raised to three-points in 2007, could be upped again after Lord Adonis noted that higher penalties had coincided with a sharp decrease in the number of people committing the offence over the last two years.

He said: "Three points on the licence appears to have had a big impact on the attitude of motorists".

The call comes after figures showed a 35% reduction in the observed use of mobile phones by drivers since 2007 - with the number of people seen using a hand-held phone behind the wheel dropping from 1.7% to 1.1%.

However, despite the fall, Lord Adonis said the Government could not "afford to be satisfied" and needed to "be prepared to consider all measures".

Baroness Hanham, for the Tories, asked: "What is the means of enforcement? Is it just left to the police to go off on motorcycle after them?"

Lord Adonis replied: "When it comes to reviewing the progress of the legislation I'm certainly prepared to consider whether three points should be increased in future."

RAC motoring strategist Adrian Tink said: "In the 2009 RAC Report on Motoring 8% of motorists still admitted to using a handheld mobile while driving, so we're pleased to hear that the issue is still on the Government's agenda and that they will consider tougher action.

"That said, increasing the penalties alone is not enough without increasing in motorists' minds the likelihood of them getting caught.

"Drive around any town or city in this country and you will still see people doing it. Part of the reason for that is undoubtedly because a lot of them simply don't believe they are going to get caught.

"The best deterrent for that is an increased and highly visible police presence on our roads."

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