A number of motoring charities and police forces have backed a national campaign to outline tougher penalties due to become law across the nation from 1st of March 2017.
The current law, The Road Vehicles (construction and use) (amendment) (no. 4) Regulations 2003 which came into force on 1st of December 2003 make it illegal to ride a motorcycle or drive using hand-held phones or similar devices. The rule also applied if you’re stopped at traffic lights or queuing in traffic, or supervising a learner driver or rider. If caught, you automatically get a fixed penalty notice of £100 and 3 points.
However, under new laws, fines for drivers caught using their mobile phones will rise to £200 and 6 penalty points – double the current penalty. Drivers will not be given a choice to take part in driver improvement courses.
Those who have held their license for less than two years will have their licenses revoked and wull have to pass both their theory and practical driving test.
Brake, a road safety charity reported that as many as 8000 drivers had been caught using their mobile phones behind the wheel. Gary Rae, campaigns director added, “We welcome this crackdown by police forces. The law needs to be much tougher with this type of offence, which appears to be growing in numbers.
“Younger drivers, especially those aged 25 to 34, simply aren’t getting the message about the dangers of using a mobile phone while driving.
“Doing any other complex task while driving hugely increases your chance of crashing. These drivers are putting their own and other people’s lives in grave danger by taking this risk.”
Neil Worth, of road safety and breakdown services organisation GEM Motoring Assist, added: “People who drive while using a mobile phone pose a significant risk to other road users and themselves. Studies show that using a hand-held mobile device when driving can be just as dangerous as drink-driving.
“As a road safety charity, we are pleased that the UK Government have finally taken this seriously by increasing the level of fixed penalty and the number of penalty points. We also welcome the planned Think! campaign to educate the public about the changes.
“But we are concerned that the reduction of dedicated traffic officers across the country means that there are fewer opportunities for individuals to be prosecuted.
“We would urge motorists to think about the consequences of using their phones behind the wheel. Remember, whatever you use your phone for, it can wait until you aren’t driving.
You can still use hand free phone, satellite navigation systems and two way radios when driving or riding, however, if the police believe you are distracted or not in full control of your vehicle then you can still be penalised.
The law does allow you to use your handheld phone if you are dialling 999 or 112 in case of an emergency, if it’s unsafe to or impractical to stop, or if you are parked safely.
What do you think about the new laws that come into force in March, is it a big enough deterrent for those who use their mobile phone behind the wheel or should the government impose even tougher measures?