The government has announced that it will double the penalties for drivers who use a hand held mobile at the wheel and also deny first-time offenders the chance of undertaking a remedial course.
Responding to a consultation on the subject the Department for Transport said it “…will double the penalty by increasing the fixed penalty fine from £100 to £200 and increasing the penalty points from 3 to 6 for all drivers – we do not propose to differentiate between cars and HGVs.
“We also propose that a remedial course is not offered to first-time offenders as an alternative to the FPN in order to provide a strong deterrent and change behaviour.”
Responding to the news Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said:
“The stiffer penalties reflect the seriousness of the problem and the concern of the public. Using a hand held mobile at the wheel must become as socially unacceptable as drink driving and peer pressure will play as big a part in achieving this as tough laws, strong enforcement and education programmes.
“Ministers are showing they want to stamp out a potentially lethal activity before it becomes entrenched behaviour for a growing number of drivers.”
Penalties for the use of a hand held mobile were introduced in 2003 in the form of a £30 fine. In 2007 the fine increased to £60 with three penalty points added to offenders’ licences. In 2013 the fine went up again, this time to £100.
Research by the RAC Foundation suggests that texting whilst driving impairs drivers’ reactions by more than being at the legal drink-drive limit.
With some two-thirds of people now owning a smart phone the RAC Foundation has argued it could be time for a drive-safe mode to be installed on mobiles, similar in principle to flight mode. The government says it is “willing to work with industry on technology that would encourage better and safer behaviour and we want to take full advantage rapidly developing in-car technology and where it can support safe driving behaviour.”
Philip Gomm – Head of External Communications – RAC Foundation
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Notes to editors:
The RAC Foundation is a transport policy and research organisation that explores the economic, mobility, safety and environmental issues relating to roads and their users.
The Foundation publishes independent and authoritative research with which it promotes informed debate and advocates policy in the interest of the responsible motorist. All the Foundation’s work is available at: www.racfoundation.org