In an upcoming road safety plan, the Government will set out plans to improve road safety by increasing penalties for drivers repeatedly caught using mobile phones. Figures suggest that the number of accidents attributable to mobile phone use is increasing, whilst the number of prosecutions is decreasing.
The plans, which will be subject to public consultation in 2016, will see penalty points increase from 3 to 4 (to 6 for drivers of HGVs), and fixed penalties increase from £100 to £150. First time offenders would still be offered a chance to attend a 'rehabilitation' course but repeat offenders would face the harsher penalties.
Whether it is correct to differentiate the number of points for an offence according to vehicle size remains to be seen. Driving a small goods vehicle whilst using a mobile phone can arguably lead to as serious an accident as a large one, and the accident rate in the sub 3.5 tonne goods sector is greater than that of larger vehicles.
Although the plans have received positive reaction from motoring groups, some have raised concerns over the enforcement of the plans in terms of police resources and budget cuts. Despite falling numbers of prosecutions, AA research suggests that three quarters of drivers regularly witness other drivers using their phone whilst driving.
Announcing the plans 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,
“We will take action to tackle this persistent problem, with an emphasis on the most serious offenders. 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 Government is committed to improving road safety and today we are delivering on it.”
It should be remembered that use of a mobile phone is regarded as an avoidable distraction and is deemed by a court to be an aggravating feature where a driver is prosecuted for fatal or non-fatal dangerous or careless driving offences.
For further information or advice on driving offences, please contact a member of our Road Transport team.