The UK government announced new plans for drivers in England, Wales and Scotland who are caught using their mobile phone on the first instance to receive 6 penalty points on their driver’s licence. This also applies to tablet devices.
Newly qualified drivers have a limit of six penalty points during the first 2 years of driving which means if they are caught they could lose their driving licence straightaway. Also, to obtain a licence again they are required to reapply for a provisional one and are only able to drive as a learner until more theory and practical tests are taken and passed.
Certain Police forces across the UK would previously offer the option to first time offenders to attend a remedial driving course instead of receiving points. The amount of points was set to 3 but this is planned to double, along with fines also doubling from £100 to £200.
It was announced in September that fines were to be revised and increased and points would be doubled. The government also plans a consultation on dangerous driving offences by the end of 2016.
The Prime Minister, Mrs May has stated a desire to make using a mobile phone while driving as socially unacceptable as drink driving is. She also said government intends to increase its work with the public to raise awareness on the subject. Also she feels the punishments for drivers who kill or cause an injury should be tougher than they are currently.
Mrs May said: “Sadly, we have seen too many times the devastating and heart-breaking consequences of using a mobile phone while driving.”
“A moment’s distraction can wreck the lives of others forever.”
“We are determined to make our roads safer by taking action against those who flout the law and put other people at risk.”
Steve Gooding, the director of a motoring research charity, the RAC Foundation, said: “By ruling out courses and doubling the fine, ministers are reflecting public concern and showing they want to stamp out a potentially lethal activity before it becomes entrenched behaviour for a growing number of drivers.”
Northern Ireland is unaffected by the changes. Drivers receive the three penalty points and a £60 fine currently.
Almost 17,000 drivers who were caught on their phones while driving received penalty notices in England and Wales in 2015. This actually represents a large decrease of 84% compared to 2011 when over 123,000 drivers were caught and issued fines according to the Home Office.
Figures from the Department for Transport show that a driver who was distracted or impaired because of their mobile phone was a contributory factor in 440 accidents last year. 22 of these accidents were fatal and 75 of them came under the ‘serious’ category.
However, Brake, a road safety charity, has said “The number of fines does not reflect the rapidly growing problem of mobile usage by drivers.”
Mike Bristow, spokesman, said: “Instead, these figures are evidence of the alarming drop in traffic cops on our roads.”
“We urge the government to make roads policing a national policing priority to prevent illegal, risk-taking behaviour behind the wheel.”
According to the Department for Transport the changes are expected to take effect early in 2017.