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Tougher penalties for drivers using phones while driving

Penalty points will rise for drivers caught using their mobile phones while driving. Credit: PA

Drivers caught using their mobile phones when driving are set to face bigger penalties under government proposals.

Under the measures:

  • Penalty points will rise from three to four
  • Fixed penalty fines will go up 50% to £150
  • Drivers of larger vehicles such as HGVs would receive six points for being caught on a hand-held phone instead of three.
  • Drivers can be banned from the road if they receive 12 points within three years.

People caught for the first time may be given an opportunity to avoid points on their licence by taking a course focusing on the effects of using mobile phones while driving.

But the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) warned that the move would not have a "dramatic impact" unless there were more traffic police officers to enforce the law.

21
fatal accidents occurred in 2014 where use of a mobile phone was a contributing factor
84
accident classed as "serious" also involved a mobile, according to the DfT

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."

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said he wants to see mobile phone use behind the wheel becoming a 'social taboo'. Credit: PA

The Institute of Advanced Motorists director of policy and research, Neil Greig, praised the government's efforts to improve road safety but said the plans will not have a significant effect.

We believe increasing penalties for hand-held mobile phone use will not have a dramatic impact.

What we need is an increase in traffic police officers who enforce tougher regulations, in which motorists would fear using a mobile phone at the wheel because they'll get caught, as opposed to just getting higher fines.

– IAM's director of policy and research, Neil Greig

In October, the RAC published analysis of Ministry of Justice data showing that prosecutions for the offence are down by almost half in five years, despite a study showing the practice is more common.

17,414
Prosecutions for drivers using their phone at the wheel were launched in England and Wales in 2014.
47%
down from 32,571 in 2009.

This is despite a 2014 DfT study which found that 1.6% of drivers in England were observed using a mobile, up from 1.4% in 2009.

The government will hold a consultation over the mobile phone proposals, which form part of its road safety plan to be published next week.