AA Insurance has hailed the proposed increase in penalties for using a hand-held mobile phone or other device while driving as a ‘victory for common sense’.
Until now, the CU80 offence for using a hand-held phone has attracted the same fixed penalty as speeding – three penalty points and a £100 fine.
The Government has announced that it plans to increase the penalty to four points and a £150 fine.
Michael Lloyd, director of broker at 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 hand-held 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," he said.
“Insurers already reflect this in the premiums of offenders who can expect an average premium increase twice that imposed for a speeding conviction.
“While drivers may mistakenly exceed a speed limit, no-one uses a hand-held phone by mistake.
"It’s a deliberate act that seriously diverts attention from driving, significantly heightening the risk of a crash.”
Lloyd added that a few insurance companies might overlook a first speeding offence while most will ignore those who opt to take a safety awareness course instead of a fine and licence endorsement.
“But all insurers will penalise those who commit a mobile phone offence and some may even decline to renew cover when a policy comes up for renewal.
"Offenders are much more likely to make a claim, so their premium will reflect that risk.”
AA-Populus research last year revealed that 23% of more than 19,000 AA members admitted that they had ‘been distracted, had a near miss or a crash over the previous 12 months’ while using or interacting in some way with mobile phone or other mobile device.
AA members also ranked handheld phone use, alongside tailgating, as the two most irritating and dangerous actions on the roads in an AA-Populus poll of 29,660 drivers earlier this year.
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 hand-held mobiles at the wheel.”