Motorists who use their mobile phones whilst driving will face 6 penalty points and a £200 fine from next year following changes identified by the Department for Transport, doubling the current fixed penalties.
Motorists will know that obtaining 12 penalty points in a three year period will result in an mandatory disqualification from driving for at least 6 months unless the legal argument of “exceptional hardship” can be made out (for further information see here). The offence of using a mobile phone whilst driving can be made out by simply checking the time on your phone. Despite the reduction in the number of police officers on the road, we anticipate an increase in the number of prosecutions for this offence given the clear political focus on tackling this dangerous driving habit and improving road safety.
It may be well that the Department for Transport implements an automatic “mobile phone awareness course” for first time offences akin to the speed awareness course offered for certain offences of speeding but we will have to see exactly how these changes are to be implemented.
Young drivers who are within the first two years of passing their test will be at highest risk as a result of the new changes (expected to be introduced in early 2017) as one single offence will result in the revocation of their licence and they will have to retake both their theory and practical driving tests in order to regain their driving licence.
Finally, it is important to remind qualified drivers that if you are supervising a provisional/learner driver, the law applies equally to you as it does the person under your supervision. From next year, you could receive 6 penalty points and a fine for using your mobile phone whilst supervising and therefore it is important that you are fully aware of your responsibilities and liabilities before getting into the passenger seat.
Clearly this is a topical issue at the moment and the need for improved road safety is undeniable. The statistics of motorists using their phones whilst driving is shocking (see our recent update regarding the RAC’s annual Motoring Report) and there are other changes in the pipeline including a review of the sentencing guidelines for death by dangerous or careless driving.
We will provide further updates as and when they are announced. Should you require our expert assistance in relation to this area, do not hesitate to contact one of our specialist motoring lawyers on 01908 202150 or firstname.lastname@example.org