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Tougher Penalties for Mobile Phone use while driving

Your phone buzzes while you’re driving – what do you do? Ignore it or take a sneaky peak?

We all know that using your phone while driving is against the law (not to mention extremely dangerous), yet we see it on the roads every day. Drivers know it is wrong but are still prepared to risk it. I’d imagine part of the reason is that they know they’re unlikely to get caught. There are fewer police cars on the roads and speed cameras won’t pick this up.

However, from 1st March 2017 drivers now face tougher penalties if caught using their phone behind the wheel and our prime minister has pledged to make using a mobile phone while driving as socially unacceptable as drink driving.

What are the new penalties?

From 2003 it has been against the law to use a hand held mobile phone while driving and since 2007 there has been a penalty of three points on your licence and £100 fine. Under the new rules that came into force at the beginning of this month, drivers will now be faced with 6 penalty points as well as a fine of £200 if caught on their phone; so the penalties have doubled. Points of your licence will also mean an increase in insurance premiums.

The changes effectively mean that new drivers could have their licence revoked if caught using their mobile behind the wheel, as in their first two years of driving, motorists are only allowed to clock up six penalty points, rather than the normal twelve. So just one offence for new drivers will have very serious consequences.

What does the Law say?

It is an offence to use a hand held mobile device whilst driving a car or even when stopped with the engine running. This means you cannot use your phone when stopped at traffic lights or stuck in traffic. Even using your phone when parked with the engine running can be considered unlawful and can result in a fine. It is also illegal to use a hand held phone when supervising a learner driver. The only time you are permitted to use your phone behind the wheel is when you need to dial 999 in an emergency and you are unable to safely stop.

Use of a hands free kit is not illegal, however the police do have the power to impose penalties if they consider that you are distracted or that your ability to drive safely has been affected.

Are these changes enough?

It is hoped this change in legislation will serve as a strong reminder of the dangers and implications of breaking this law, but are these changes enough? Whilst I welcome the tougher penalties, there is still a way to go to change drivers’ attitudes.

In the 2016 RAC report on motoring, one in five motorists admitted to using social media while stuck in traffic and one in two admitted to using their phone to make a call while in traffic. Worryingly, 14% say they take images or video while driving, 20% have sent emails, texts or updated their social media behind the wheel, and 6% admit they use their hand-held phone “most or all of the time” while driving.

Most road traffic accidents are caused because of a driver’s lack of attention and can often result in injuries; just a moment’s distraction looking at a phone is all it can take to cause an accident that can affect many lives including the person at fault.

So, when you are driving, bear in mind these new penalties and the dangers of distraction. Keep your phone out of sight and resist the temptation to even glance over at it so you aren’t distracted. Let’s hope these new penalties make our roads a safer place