The government has announced that anyone caught using a handheld mobile phone whilst driving will be fined £200 and receive six points on their licence – a doubling of the existing penalty.
The issue was brought into sharp focus last week when lorry driver Tomasz Kroker was jailed for 10 years when he killed a family of four in a crash caused by him being distracted by his mobile phone.
IAM RoadSmart has welcomed the news. Neil Greig, IAM RoadSmart director of policy and research, said: “Addressing the growing problem of smartphone use whilst driving will require a combination of enforcement and education as well as drivers, passengers, companies and individuals taking more responsibility.
“It is essential that drivers get the clear message that if you are on the phone and have a fatal crash you can expect to go to prison for a long time. There is a lot of support among the driving public for stronger penalties and more enforcement focus on mobile phones, but also a feeling that this is not always reflected in sentencing.
“The Home Office must also review it’s policing priorities to ensure they reflect the risks that new technology can bring on the road.”
RAC road safety spokesman Pete Williams said: “We welcome stiffer penalties for handheld mobile phone use and believe this will send a very strong message to motorists.
“Many drivers might be surprised that the Government is proposing doing away with the option for offenders to take a mobile phone awareness course. Police forces have been using such courses as an option and alternative to points and fines which demonstrates that they believe there is a need for better education of the risks and dangers. They are the ones tasked with enforcement when challenged with diminishing budgets so we would be interested if they believe that this approach will succeed.
“From 2017 taking a short call at the wheel or quickly checking your texts will have far greater consequences, particularly for anyone with existing points on their licence as they will suddenly be much closer to having their licence taken away. For new drivers a prosecution will mean instant disqualification as they only need six points within two years of gaining their licence to have it revoked by the DVLA.
“The Government, police, road safety and motoring organisations must accept some responsibility for failing to encourage motorists to change their behaviour and make handheld mobile phone use as socially unacceptable as drink-driving since it was made illegal in 2003.