Under new government proposals, UK motorists caught using their mobile phones while driving will automatically receive a £200 fine and six penalty points on their licence. This new measure essentially doubles the system which is currently in place and is aimed at those drivers who consistently use their mobile phones whilst driving.
The minister for transport, Chris Grayling, said use of mobiles at the wheel was as socially unacceptable as drink or drug-driving.
“We all have a part to play in ensuring our family and friends do not use their phones while driving,” said Grayling, promising to announce “a tougher new penalty regime shortly”.
Department for Transport (DfT) sources have highlighted that a higher number of those caught using their phones behind the wheel were young, or new drivers, or both. Newly qualified drivers, who have a ceiling of six points for their first two years on the road, could immediately lose their licence if they are caught.
Metropolitan police data shows that almost 20,000 notices involving potential fines and penalty points, retraining courses have been issued so far this year in London alone.
The president of the AA, Edmund King, called for a national advertising campaign similar to those which ran in the 1980s on drink-driving. “It is similar to habits lost in the 70s and 80s with drink-driving and seatbelts. Only a shift in attitude, harsher penalties and better enforcement will improve matters,” he said.
The AA believes part of the problem is generational. Younger drivers have grown up with mobile phones and have not known a life without one.
The Department for Transport (DfT) is working on a no holds barred Think! campaign with new sanctions due to be announced in the coming weeks.
It acted after road safety groups called for tougher sanctions and judges to use their powers to jail.
The DfT said that of 88 deaths caused by distractions in 2012, 17 were because of mobile use – a higher death rate than other in-car causes. In 2014 this had risen to 21 fatal accidents and 22 in 2015.