Thousands caught using phone while driving despite new penalties

Thousands caught using phone while driving despite new penalties

More than 200 drivers a day are caught using a mobile phone at the wheel, despite tougher penalties coming into force.

On 1 March, the penalty for using a handheld phone while driving doubled to £200 and six penalty points. For new drivers -- who lose their licence if they get six or more points within two years of passing their test -- the change means that they risk losing their licence for a single phone call.

A Freedom of information (FOI) request from the Press Association revealed that in the four weeks after the new penalties took effect, police across the UK caught nearly 6,000 motorists using a phone for calls, messages or social media.

The highest number of incidents was registered by the Metropolitan Police in London (2,037), followed by Thames Valley Police (478), Police Scotland (339), Hampshire Police (280) and Cheshire Police (224).

Among the incidents recorded, police stopped a man doing his online banking on the M5 near Birmingham, and a school minibus driver with 10 children on board in Manchester was caught using his phone behind the wheel.

Steve Gooding, director of motoring research charity The RAC Foundation, said the "key message still isn't sinking in".

"Driving is a safety-critical activity that requires our full attention. Hands need to be on the wheel and eyes looking out of the windscreen, not down at the phone screen," he added.

Earlier this year, the RAC found that 'fear of missing out' (FOMO) has intensified in the social media era, leading more people to check their phones while driving.

RAC road safety spokesman Pete Williams said: "The RAC identified that the use of a handheld mobile phone by drivers to talk, text, tweet and even take photographs is at epidemic proportions and it is going to take a combination of factors to get the message across that anyone breaking the law will be caught and prosecuted.

"Regrettably drivers do not feel they are likely to be stopped by a traffic officer for any motoring offence so there is an uphill struggle to change behaviours."

AA president Edmund King said that changing drivers' attitudes would take time: "We now have stricter penalties so need to continue with education campaigns (including driving schools) plus more police enforcement."

However, road safety charity Brake believes that the £200 fine should be "significantly increased" to deter offenders.

Do you support even higher fines? Or is education the answer?

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Posted 02 June 2017 by Jodie Salter

Tags: Driving, Motorists, Phones, RAC


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