Motorists using their mobile phone while driving face tougher sanctions from 2017 after the government announced a doubling of both points and fine for offenders.
From next year, motorists face six penalty points and a £200 fine for being caught driving and using their mobile phone.
The increased penalties send a clear message to newly qualified drivers, who have a ceiling of six points for their first two years on the road, and could immediately lose their licence if they are caught. Use of a mobile phone includes texting, making phone calls without a hands free kit or checking social media accounts. A recent report conducted by the RAC indicated that 11 million motorists have admitted to making or receiving a call in the last 12 months and a further five million have taken photos or videos while driving. Phone use was highest among drivers aged 17 to 24.
The new rules will come into force sometime in the first half of 2017 in England, Scotland and Wales, and could see fines of up to £1,000 with a six-month driving ban for drivers who are caught twice for the offence. Department for Transport said that of 88 deaths caused by distractions in 2012, 17 were a result 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.
The president of the Automobile Association, Edmund King, called for a national advertising campaign akin to those 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.