Most illegal phone drivers get courses, not points

Most illegal phone drivers get courses, not points
Motorists caught using a mobile phone behind the wheel are more likely to be handed an awareness course than penalty points or a fine, according to data gathered by the RAC.

Of the 85,564 Traffic Offence Reports (TORs) issued to drivers caught on their phone by 32 police forces in England in Wales in 2015, as many as 63% resulted in the motorist being sent on a course.

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The figures are particularly significant in light of new legislation, which will see motorists caught from March 2017 onwards handed offered a fixed penalty – resulting in six penalty points and a £200 fine – or face a court summons.

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Currently, the maximum punishment is a £100 fine and three penalty points. Attending a course will no longer be an alternative option under the Government’s plans.

New research from the RAC suggests that the new harsher penalties are backed by drivers, with 80% of motorists saying they support the move and 35% saying they believe the new penalties are still too lenient.

RAC road safety spokesman Pete Williams said: “These new figures highlight just how popular educational courses have become for police forces and motorists, and suggest that the majority of forces believe that education can be effective at getting offending drivers to think twice about illegally using a phone at the wheel, rather than just prosecution.”

He added that the approach currently taken across much of the country is “sharply at odds” with the direction the law is moving in.

“The RAC believes urgent focus is now needed to ensure as much is being done as possible to get drivers to change their behaviour. We support the much tougher penalties that will be introduced from March, and would like to see this backed by targeted enforcement by police forces across the country.”

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However, Mr Williams said that education still has a “pivotal role” to play in discouraging drivers from using their phone illegally.

“Our #BePhoneSmart campaign acknowledges that no single action alone can bring an end to the handheld phone epidemic that has gripped the UK.

“What’s needed is concerted action by the Government, police forces, road safety groups and motoring organisations working together to tackle the problem. We need to make the use of handheld mobile phones as socially unacceptable as drink driving.”

The RAC’s #BePhoneSmart campaign, launched in 2017, advocates greater individual responsibility, stronger enforcement of the law, harsher penalties for offenders and more awareness of the risks using phones at the wheel poses.

Copyright Press Association 2017. Motoring News articles do not reflect the RAC's views unless clearly stated.