The government is planning to increase fixed penalty fines from £100 to £150, as well as increasing the number of penalty points drivers receive. Penalty points would rise from three to four – and from three to six for drivers of large vehicles such as HGVs.
The proposals, which are part of the government’s Road Safety Plan, are aimed at targeting those who repeatedly offend. Most first-time offenders will still be offered an educational course to help them change their behaviour.
The larger increase in the penalty points proposed for HGV drivers reflects the fact that accidents involving large vehicles can be much more severe, a government spokesman said. The proposals follow a previous increase in the fixed penalty for using a hand-held mobile phone while driving, from £60 in 2013 to £100.
Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said, “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.”
The use of a mobile phone was a contributing factor in 21 fatal accidents and 84 serious accidents in 2014, the government said.
Suzette Davenport from the National Police Chiefs Council said the organisation fully supported the crackdown and was determined to keep all road users safe.
She said, “Drivers must continue to be aware not only of the risks posed by being distracted by mobile phones while in control of a car but the serious penalties which they will face if they are caught.”
Motoring organisations also approved of the measures.
David Bizley, the RAC’s chief engineer, said, “There is still a surprising number of motorists who think it is acceptable to take a short call with a hand-held mobile whilst driving – it isn’t, and is a real danger. Our report on motoring this year showed motorists are increasingly worried about other drivers being distracted by mobile phones whilst at the wheel.”
Edmund King, president of the AA, said the majority of drivers “will welcome” the proposals.
He added, “This epidemic of hand-held mobile phone use while driving has already cost lives. Three quarters of drivers see others using mobile phones on some or most journeys, with one quarter seeing it on every journey, according to our polls.”