Motorists caught using a mobile phone while driving face having four points added to their licence and fixed penalty fines of £150 if new government plans are approved, it has been revealed. The punishments will be even tougher for HGV drivers who will be given six points for driving while using a mobile – a toll that could see them struggle to get the insurance they need to continue working.
The current punishment of three points and a £100 fine are expected to be increased as the government rolls out its so-called Road Safety Plan, which is intended to target repeat offenders. First time offenders are likely to be offered an educational course outlining the dangers of using a mobile while driving, with the stricter punishments introduced if the crime is repeated.
HGV drivers face tougher penalties than ordinary motorists because accidents involving lorries are more severe, the BBC quoted a government spokesperson as saying. Meanwhile, Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin told The Independent on Sunday: "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."
"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," McLoughlin went on to say.
Motoring groups have welcomed the news of increased punishments, although some questioned whether they were still too lenient. Others said many offenders simply do not use their phones if marked police cars are nearby, meaning the risk of actually getting caught remains slim.
Tim Shallcross from the Institute of Advanced Motorists told the BBC: "The Department for Transport's own research this year showed that when they doubled the penalty from £50 to £100 in 2013 it made no discernible difference whatsoever." He added: "What deters people from using mobile phones is the fear of being caught and, frankly, with fewer police on the roads that possibility is becoming less and less."
Mobile phones were a contributing factor in 21 fatal and 84 serious road accidents in 2014, according to government figures. In total 1,775 people were killed and 22,807 seriously injured on Britain's roads over the same period.