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Police launch crackdown on drivers’ mobile phone use as new penalties are introduced

Police launch crackdown on drivers’ mobile phone use as new penalties are introduced

Police forces nationwide, with the government’s backing, are cracking down on drivers’ use of hand-held mobile phones in the week that penalties for the offence were doubled.

Since Wednesday (1 March), people using a hand-held mobile phone while driving in England, Scotland and Wales receive six points on their licence and a £200 fine - up from the previous three points and £100 penalty (Newsfeed: week commencing 20 February).  

Motorists caught using their mobile twice or accruing 12 points on their licence will face Magistrates’ Court, being disqualified and fines of up to £1,000. New drivers, within two years of passing their test, risk having their licence revoked and lorry or bus drivers can be suspended if caught.  

Coinciding with introduction of the tougher penalties, police forces across the country are taking part in a week’s enforcement until Tuesday (7 March), which sees extra patrols and an increased focus on cracking down on people using their phones while driving. About 3,600 drivers were handed penalties in the last co-ordinated enforcement week from 23 to 29 January this year.  

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said: “Our message is simple and clear: do not get distracted by your mobile phone while driving. It may seem innocent, but holding and using your phone at the wheel risks serious injury and even death to yourself and other road users.  

“Doubling penalties will act as a strong deterrent to motorists tempted to pick up their phone while driving and will also mean repeat offenders could find themselves banned from our roads if they are caught twice.  

“Everyone has a part to play in encouraging their family and friends not to use their phones while driving - it is as inexcusable as drink-driving.”  

Chief Constable Suzette Davenport, National Police Chiefs’ Council roads policing lead, said: “These new penalties reflect the seriousness of the offence and will strengthen the deterrent against using a mobile phone at the wheel. We need people to understand that this is not a minor offence that they can get away with.  

“Across this week officers will continue to use innovative and intelligence-led tactics to catch and penalise people who are driving while distracted by a mobile phone. However, this is an attitudinal problem that we cannot simply enforce away by putting more officers on the roads.  

“This issue has to begin with personal responsibility by drivers. We know that people are more likely to report other drivers using a phone than to view themselves as guilty of it. That has to change.  

“Tougher penalties are a step in the right direction, but police forces and partners are working this week to make it socially unacceptable to use a mobile phone at the wheel. It’s about more than what you might have to pay as a penalty - you could hurt or kill an innocent person on the roads by checking a text or taking a call. Don’t do it - and don’t let others take the risk either.”  

Supporting the police campaign is a new government THINK! campaign to warn drivers of the new penalties and the dangers of using mobiles while driving.
The campaign sees adverts on billboards, radio and social media as well as a hard-hitting video in cinemas, which was developed in partnership with The AA Charity Trust. Stickers and other in-car merchandise that encourage motorists to put their phone away and out of reach while driving are also being distributed through partnerships with driving schools and car rental companies.  

Shaun Helman, head of transport psychology at TRL (Transport Research Laboratory), said: “Any task that involves holding a device, looking at it, and interacting with it during driving will adversely affect driving performance.

“Typical effects are drifting out of lane, erratic speed control and being less aware of what is around you, resulting in poor anticipation of hazards. Recent research by TRL suggests that between 10-30% of road accidents in the European Union are at least partly caused by distraction, and social media is an increasing risk in this area.  

“Even simply speaking on a mobile phone can slow reaction times to sudden events, as much as being at the legal limit for blood alcohol in England (80mg/100ml of blood). Interacting with social media is even more demanding than simply speaking. Drink-driving is socially unacceptable because the behaviour puts not only the driver, but other road users’ lives at risk. Choosing to be deliberately distracted from driving by tasks such as checking social media also puts other road users at risk and should also be seen as socially unacceptable.”  

Gary Rae, campaigns director for road safety charity Brake, said: “The increase in the points is very welcome. However, when you realise that you can be fined £1,000 for not having a TV licence, then the £200 fine for illegally using a mobile looks woefully inadequate.”