Road safety organisations have welcomed Government plans to increase the penalty for using a handheld mobile phone to a fixed fine of £150 and four penalty points.
At the moment the penalty is £100 and three penalty points. The penalty for HGV drivers would double to six points.
The Government included the action in a number of proposals announced yesterday to improve road safety. These will be consulted on next year.
Under the proposals, the vast majority of first-time offenders will not incur a fine or penalty points but will instead be offered an educational course at the discretion of the police.
"Using a mobile phone at the wheel is reckless and costs lives,” said David Williams, chief executive of road safety organisation GEM.
“Our members consistently rate it as one of the most dangerous actions performed by drivers.
“GEM welcomes the proposed harsher penalties, but warns that they must be accompanied by effective enforcement.
"This would then help to create a worthwhile deterrent and a safer road environment for everyone.”
AA Insurance has hailed the proposed increase in penalties for using a handheld mobile phone or other device while driving as a ‘victory for common sense’.
Michael Lloyd, director of broker AA Insurance, said the Government is at last catching up with the insurance industry, which has long regarded mobile phone offences as being significantly more serious than speeding.
“Drivers using a handheld mobile phone are at four times greater risk of having a crash than a driver not using one and I’m delighted that the penalty will now better reflect the seriousness of this offence.
“While drivers may mistakenly exceed a speed limit, no-one uses a handheld phone by mistake. It’s a deliberate act that seriously diverts attention from driving, significantly heightening the risk of a crash.”
Edmund King, AA president, added: “This epidemic of hand held mobile phone use while driving has already cost lives and drivers have demanded action.
"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.
“The majority of drivers will welcome these increased fines and penalty points, alongside driver improvement courses, to tackle those who use handheld mobiles at the wheel.”
Other plans announced by the Government in its road safety statement include:
- A £750,000 grant in 2015 to 2016 for police forces in England and Wales to build drug-driving enforcement capability, consulting on options for a drug-driving rehabilitation scheme course and a high-risk offenders regime for drug drivers
- Undertaking a £2 million research programme to identify the best possible interventions for learner and novice drivers
- Undertaking a road safety management capacity review to identify areas for improved joint working, local innovation and efficiency.
For more on these plans, click here.