Tougher penalties for drivers using mobile phones come into force
Drivers using their mobile phone face tougher penalties from today as the Government looks to cracked down on an ‘epidemic’ of handheld phone use.
Announced last year following a consultation, the fixed penalty for being caught using a handheld phone in the car now doubles to six penalty points and a £200 fine. A remedial course is not being offered to first-time offenders and drivers caught using their mobile twice or accruing 12 points on their licence will face magistrates’ court, being disqualified and fines of up to £1,000. Newly qualified drivers – who can only gain six points before being banned – will have their licences revoked if caught using their phone once.
The new measures are being enforced by a week-long police campaign, which will see extra patrols deployed. About 3,600 drivers were handed penalties in the last co-ordinated enforcement week from 23 to 29 January this year.
The transport secretary, Chris Grayling, said: “Our message is simple and clear: do not get distracted by your mobile phone while driving. It may seem innocent, but holding and using your phone at the wheel risks serious injury and even death to yourself and other road users.
“Doubling penalties will act as a strong deterrent to motorists tempted to pick up their phone while driving and will also mean repeat offenders could find themselves banned from our roads if they are caught twice.
“Everyone has a part to play in encouraging their family and friends not to use their phones while driving – it is as inexcusable as drink driving.”
The new penalties are backed by motoring and road safety organisations across the UK, including the AA, which is running a campaign to make driving while using mobiles as socially unacceptable as drink driving using a film that will appear across cinemas in the UK from 3 March.
Meanwhile the RAC is calling on drivers and individuals, businesses and other organisations to commit to its BePhoneSmart.uk promise.
National Police Chiefs’ council lead for roads policing, chief constable Suzette Davenport commented: “Tougher penalties are a step in the right direction, but police forces and partners are working this week to make it socially unacceptable to use a mobile phone at the wheel. It’s about more than what you might have to pay as a penalty – you could hurt or kill an innocent person on the roads by checking a text or taking a call.”
However, research from Goodyear Tyres UK has revealed that almost a quarter (23%) of motorists said the risk of being prosecuted would not affect their mobile phone use behind the wheel.
Kate Rock, PR & corporate communications manager, said: “It’s absolutely imperative that more education is provided to make drivers aware of the potential dangers of the road and the distractions around them, so that safe driving becomes second nature.
“We have found that mobile phone use is still prominent especially in young drivers. Worryingly, our extensive research revealed that 42% of young drivers have admitted to using their mobile phone behind the wheel and almost one-quarter (23%) said the risk of being prosecuted would not affect this.”
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