Stricter penalties for using hand-held mobile phones while at the wheel take effect from today.
The fixed-penalty fine for offenders is doubling from £30 to £60 and, for the first time, those caught using hand-held mobiles will get three penalty points on their licence.
Courts will have the powers to give a maximum fine of £1,000 or £2,500 in the case of a driver of a bus, coach or goods vehicle. Offenders could even be disqualified from driving.
The AA said the new measures ‘paled into significance’ compared with the threat of jail for causing a fatal crash while using a mobile.
It added that too few motorists had made the connection between using a mobile and prison terms handed down by courts for causing death by dangerous driving.
Meredydd Hughes, Chief Constable of South Yorkshire Police and the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) roads policing spokesman, said: ‘It’s important to remember that 77,000 people have already been fined for driving whilst using their mobile phones, a figure that highlights this offence is policed robustly.
‘The law will continue to be enforced and with the provision of penalties extending to not having proper control of a vehicle drivers need to be aware that not concentrating on the road could not only cause an accident but also earn them points on their licence and a fine on top of that.
‘Driving whilst using a mobile phone is not acceptable and these penalties will hopefully deter those who think they are above the law.’
Deaths and injuries
Jools Townsend, Head of Education at road safety charity Brake, said: ‘Driving is the most dangerous activity most of us do on a daily basis, and requires complete concentration.
‘Mobile phones continue to cause deaths and injuries on our roads, and while we are glad the penalty has been increased, the new penalties do not go far enough.
‘It is high time the government took steps to ensure the law is properly enforced, and to extend the ban on using mobile phones while driving to reflect research which shows using a hands-free phone at the wheel can be equally deadly.’
© The Press Association, All rights reserved.