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Tougher penalties for mobile phone-using drivers need ‘rigorous enforcement’, says Brake

Enforcement of new, tougher laws on illegal mobile phone use at the wheel stalled just one month after their introduction, according to figures obtained by Brake.

From March 1 this year, penalties for drivers using a mobile handset were doubled to a £200 fine and six penalty points.

Freedom of Information figures from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA), obtained by Brake, reveal that 10,428 drivers in England, Scotland and Wales received six penalty points for illegal mobile phone use in the four-month period between March and June 2017.

Although 5,258 drivers received points in March 2017, during a nationwide police crackdown, the numbers receiving points for illegal phone use plummeted to 1,865 in April and just 1,387 in June.

Most of the penalties in the four months to June were given to drivers from Greater London (2,186), followed by Essex (580), the West Midlands (372), Hampshire (348) and Kent (308).

A total of 736 drivers in Scotland and 392 in Wales received six points for using handsets behind the wheel in the same period.

The toughening of the law in March also means that new drivers will lose their licence if caught using a hand-held device behind the wheel. Today's figures show that 104 new drivers in Britain lost their licence for the offence in March 2017, but this dropped to just 36 in April and 22 in June

The licences of 39 new drivers from Greater London, 12 from the West Midlands, ten from Essex and seven each from Greater Manchester, Hampshire and Shropshire, were revoked in the four-month period .

The figures come following recent Department for Transport data that shows that mobile phone use was a contributory factor in 478 collisions on British roads last year, an increase of over a quarter (26%) since 2012.

Brake is calling for a renewed focus by police forces on enforcement of mobile phone laws − issuing points in particular − to reduce deadly crashes.

The charity has also led a coalition of NGOs and organisations in urging the mobile phone industry to roll out 'opt-out' technology as standard, to automatically prevent distracting alerts when driving.

Brake’s director of campaigns Jason Wakeford said: "Illegal mobile phone use at the wheel is a growing menace to road safety. Given the scale of the problem, the fact that so few drivers have received points is deeply troubling.

“Tougher laws are a big step forwards, but they must be accompanied by rigorous enforcement if they are to work. It's essential that police forces send out a clear message that drivers who flout the law will be caught and punished.

"There has been an unacceptable rise in the number of people killed and seriously injured on the roads and enforcement plays a crucial part in improving safety. The Government must treat road policing as a national priority and reverse savage cuts to road traffic officers.

"Research shows that using a phone behind the wheel affects reaction times as much as drink driving, increasing the chances of a fatal crash. Brake urges motorists to put mobiles on silent and out of reach when in the car, to keep focused on the road.

“Mobile operators and manufacturers must also play their part by including 'opt-out' technology on handsets as standard, to reduce deadly distractions in the first place.”

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  • Edward Handley - 18/12/2017 08:28

    It is clear that increasing the points for using a mobile phone has not had much impact on those drivers who think they can drive and talk or text at the same time. Rigorous enforcement might make a difference, but unless there is a major change to Government policy and a substantial increase in the number of Police Officers, especially Traffic Police, there's not much chance of getting caught. We need a change of thinking - how about an immediate 30 day driving ban instead of points? They do it in France if you are caught exceeding a speed limit by more that 30 km/hr and there is some evidence that it works. Mind you, they have rather more Police than we do.

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