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DfT opens public consultation on stricter penalties for using a mobile behind the wheel

The consultation is seeking feedback on proposals for increasing the fixed penalty notice level from £100 to £150 for all drivers, as announced in the Government’s Road Safety Plan last December.

The DfT said the vast majority of first time offenders would not incur a fixed penalty or penalty points but would instead continue to be offered a remedial educational course.

The consultation also invites views on increasing the penalty points from three to four points for non-HGV drivers, and three to six points for those that hold a heavy goods vehicle (HGV) licence and commit the offence whilst driving an HGV.

The move has been welcomed by the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM).

Neil Greig, IAM director of policy and research, said: “Forcing all drivers caught using a hand-held mobile for the first time to attend a re-education course would be a really positive step.

“For many, smartphone use has become an addiction that we can only start to cure through some form of therapy. The IAM does not object to tougher penalties but we do believe that the real deterrent is fear of being caught. That fear can only be increased by increasing the numbers of traffic police on our roads.”

The DfT’s report launching the consultation also cited the IAM’s survey in July 2015 on drivers taking selfies at the wheel, which found that 9% of drivers surveyed admitted taking a selfie whilst driving within the previous month – a figure that increases to 19% of 25-35 year olds.

The survey also discovered 8% of drivers admitted to driving while using a video-calling application such as FaceTime and Skype to make and receive video calls, rising to 16% among 18 to 24 year olds.

Neil Greig added: “Technology has caused this issue and technology offers one route towards reducing the distraction effect of mobile phone use.  It will not be easy to retrofit many of these solutions but the IAM is supportive of trials and pilots to show whether automatically switching off phones when moving can deliver safer roads.”

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Natalie Middleton

Natalie has worked as a fleet journalist for 16 years, previously as assistant editor on the former Company Car magazine before joining Fleet World in 2006. Prior to this, she worked on a range of B2B titles, including Insurance Age and Insurance Day. As Business Editor, Natalie ensures the group websites and newsletters are updated with the latest news.