The government has announced plans for tougher penalties for those caught using phones whilst driving
Motoring.co.uk has learnt that the Department of Transport (DFT) will introduce a host of road safety measures today to improve driving standards in the UK, including a crackdown on drug driving and plans to allow learner drivers on motorways.
Possibly the most important change will be to how the police deal with those flouting the mobile phone law. At present, motorists using hand-held mobile phones are a huge problem.
Motorists who endanger lives by using hand-held mobile phones while driving will face an increase from the current three penalty points to four while the fixed penalty notice will rise from £100 to £150.
Professional drivers will also come under closer scrutiny, HGV drivers will see the penalty increase from the current three points to six and the fixed penalty notice will rise from £100 to £150.
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin stated: "Using a mobile phone at the wheel is reckless and costs lives - I want to see it become a social taboo like not wearing a seatbelt."
He added: "The message is clear: keep your hands on the wheel, not your phone. If you keep taking calls while at the wheel, you could end up being banned from the road."
According to government figures, the usage of mobile phone was a contributing factor in 21 fatal accidents and 84 serious accidents in 2014.
'Irritating and dangerous'
Edmund King, AA President has agreed with the measures that the DFT is introducing and that it is right to clamp down on hand-held mobile phone usage, but more police officers must help to enforce this law if it is going to work.
He told us: "This epidemic of hand-held mobile phone use while driving has already cost lives and drivers have demanded action. Three-quarters of drivers see others using mobile phones on some or most journeys, with one-quarter seeing it on every journey according to our polls.
"The majority of drivers will welcome these increased fines and penalty points, alongside driver improvement courses, to tackle those who use hand-held mobiles at the wheel."
Mr King added: "AA members ranked hand-held phone use, alongside tailgating, as the two most irritating and dangerous actions on the roads in an AA/Populus poll of 29,660 drivers earlier this year. We welcome this government crackdown and hope it makes drivers hang up when behind the wheel."
“We also need to see more cops in cars to help enforce the law and send out a strong warning to drivers who assume they will just get away with it. The increased points will mean some drivers lose their licences more quickly and is likely to hike up their insurance premiums.”
'Educate and legislate'
Terry Hogan, Managing Director of Motoring.co.uk said: "Unfortunately, the incidence of mobile phone usage at the wheel of a car is increasing as more and more people feel the need to check their phones. A few years ago it was just text messages and calls, but now a whole host of social media accounts, reminders and messaging apps are competing for drivers' attention on our increasingly busy roads."
He added: "It's no wonder that accidents caused by mobiles are increasing and legislation has to keep up. The Government needs to educate as well as legislate."
'Keep all road users safe'
The National Police Chiefs’ Council has welcomed the changes to the hand-held mobile phone laws while driving.
National Police Chiefs’ Council lead for Roads Policing Chief Constable Suzette Davenport said, “Drivers must continue to be aware not only of the risks posed by being distracted by mobile phones while in control of a car but the serious penalties which they will face if they are caught. We are unequivocal in our determination to keep all road users safe.”