Harsher punishments for drivers using their phone

Harsher punishments for drivers using their phone
Drivers caught using a mobile phone behind the wheel will no longer be able to take a course to avoid getting points on their licence under tough new Government plans.

Currently the first time a driver is caught using a mobile phone illegally they are given the chance to take a remedial course as an alternative to points.

But the option of taking an educational course will be scrapped under new plans announced by the Department for Transport (DfT).

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The crackdown on motorists caught using phones will also introduce tougher fines and points penalties. Points will go from three to six and the fine from £100 to £200.

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Last year some 16,900 drivers across England and Wales were issued with fixed penalty notices for using a phone – a 43% decrease on the previous 12 months.

But DfT figures show mobile phone distractions were a factor in 440 accidents in Britain over the same period. .

Motoring groups attribute this to a fall in the number of full-time dedicated roads policing officers – a 27% drop for England and Wales between 2010 and 2015.  These figures exclude London, however.

RAC road safety spokesman Pete Williams said it was time to make drivers ‘go cold turkey on handheld mobile phone use’.

He said: “For new drivers a prosecution will mean instant disqualification, as they only need six points within two years of gaining their licence to have it revoked by the DVLA.

“The Government, police, road safety and motoring organisations must accept some responsibility for failing to encourage motorists to change their behaviour and make handheld mobile phone use as socially unacceptable as drink-driving since it was made illegal in 2003.

“It has been allowed to go on for too long and we now need to send a shockwave out there and encourage any drivers still flouting the law to go cold turkey on handheld mobile phone use.”

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Penalties for mobile phone use have been in place since 2003.

Yet the number of motorists using a phone behind the wheel rose between 2014 and 2016, according to an RAC report and one MP has recently pressed for mobile phone drivers to get an instant ban. Pete Williams calls for the tougher rules to be combined with a public awareness campaign to help get the message across.

Mr Williams said: “We welcome stiffer penalties for handheld mobile phone use and believe this will send a very strong message to motorists. However, we believe this has to be done in conjunction with a heavyweight road safety campaign so we therefore welcome initial proposals for a new THINK! initiative.”

“The RAC’s Report on Motoring 2016 identified that the problem is at epidemic proportions as almost half (48%) of motorists admitted to using a handheld phone at the wheel to talk, text or use other apps in the last year.”

Legislation to increase punishments for mobile phone use will be put before parliament “as soon as possible”, according to the DfT.

Copyright Press Association 2016. Motoring News articles do not reflect the RAC's views unless clearly stated.