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New penalties for drivers using mobile phones at the wheel

New penalties come in to force today (March 1st), aimed at discouraging people from using their mobile phones whilst driving.

The penalties are doubling so that, as well as getting a £200 fine if caught using a phone behind the wheel, drivers will also now be given six points on their licence instead of three.

Research has shown that being distracted by a phone while driving, regardless of whether it is being used to make calls, messages or going online can make a driver up to 25 times more likely to be involved in a collision.

New penalties come in to force today to deter drivers using phones at the wheel Credit: PA

It is illegal to use a hand-held phone while driving, even when stuck in traffic. Drivers may only use a phone to call 999 or 112 in an emergency if it’s unsafe or impractical to stop, or if safely parked.

Ron Hogg, Police, Crime and Victims’ Commissioner for County Durham and Darlington, has long campaigned for tougher penalties for mobile phone use. He said:

“These new penalties are a real deterrent to dangerous driving. But an even greater deterrent should be the knowledge that being distracted by a phone could result in an accident, serious injury to the driver and others, and even death. The phone call will wait. But if you kill someone, that is not something you can un-do.

In one week in January, a total of 72 motorists were apprehended for using their mobile phones whilst driving in the Durham Constabulary area. The week of action was carried by the Cleveland and Durham Specialist Operations Unit."

– Ron Hogg
When you can and can't use a mobile phone when at the wheel Credit: National Accident Helpline

Twitter conducted a Google Survey of 2,000 drivers in the UK, in February 2017, which revealed that 23% admit to having used a hand-held phone while driving in the last 12 months.

The survey revealed that using a phone while driving is still a widespread problem, in spite of recent police crackdowns and campaigning by organisations such as Brake and the RAC.

A survey by The National Accident Helpline also revealed that people under 35 were 50% more likely to have used a phone while driving compared to those 35 and over.

The survey asked what people were using their phones for when driving:

10%
Adjusting a maps app
9%
Making or receiving a call
8%
Texting
5%
Browsing social media
4%
Checking or sending a work email

Respondents aged 18-24 were twice as likely to have checked or sent a work email while driving (8%), compared to the average (4%).

Almost 50% more men (27%) than women (19%) admitted to having used a phone while driving. In particular, men were twice as likely to have browsed social media (6%) than women (3%), or to have made or received a call while driving (11%) compared to women (7%).

The group most likely to have used a phone while driving were men aged between 25 and 34, over a third of whom (37%) admitted to having used their mobile while driving in the last 12 months. They were three times more likely to have done so than women aged 55-64, only one in ten of whom (10%) had committed the offence.

According to a new poll, the new penalties are welcomed by people in the UK.

A Twitter poll of 2,149 people in the UK, carried out in February 2017 by National Accident Helpline, showed that 78% were in favour of an increase in penalties, while only 14% were against an increase. The remaining 8% said they weren’t sure.

However, in response to the survey, many voiced their concerns that the new penalties were still not high enough. Almost one third (32%) said the revised penalties, at £200 and 6 licence points, ought to be even higher.

In October 2016, National Accident Helpline commissioned a survey of more than 2,000 people in the UK to learn more about the modern-day distractions that can put our safety at risk when out and about.

Everyday tech dangers driving Brits to distraction:

  • 46% of Brits have put themselves in danger because they’ve been distracted whilst walking or
  • driving
  • One quarter of 16-24 year olds say having a smart phone has made them less careful on the streets
  • One in eight Brits think they are more easily distracted as an adult than they were as a child
  • One in five 16-24 year olds say they are more easily distracted
  • Almost one in five Brits have walked into someone or something because they were looking at
  • their phone while walking
  • One quarter of Brits said texting and using WhatsApp was the most likely cause of distraction
  • 49% of 16 to 24 year olds said texting and using WhatsApp was the most likely cause of distraction

Simon Trott, Managing Director of National Accident Helpline, said:

"Our Accident Awareness Week campaign highlighted just how much we're being distracted by technology when out and about.

“With the new legislation about to increase penalties for using a hand-held phone while driving, we wanted to highlight how much people in the UK are being distracted by technology while driving.

“We know that this is one of the main causes of accidents on the road, and we welcome any change in the law that improves road safety.

“We hope the increase in penalties will help to deter drivers from being tempted to use their phones at the wheel.”

– Simon Trott