The Department for Transport (DFT) has unveiled plans for harsher penalties for drivers caught using mobile phones behind the wheel.
Since 2003, it’s been illegal to use a handheld mobile device while driving. It’s still legal use a hands-free kit if your phone is in a cradle, but you can still be stopped if this distracts you and causes you to drive carelessly.
When the law was first introduced, the penalty fine was just £30. In 2007 this was increased to £60. The current penalty for using a mobile phone while driving, which was introduced in 2013, is a £100 fine and 3 penalty points — although some first-time offenders are offered a remedial course instead.
Under the new plans, the remedial course would be scrapped so drivers would face a compulsory fine and penalty points. The penalties would also double, with the fine increasing to £200 and the penalty points going from 3 to 6.
Due to the ‘totting up’ rule, drivers can be disqualified for at least six months once they accumulate 12 points on their licence. The new plans would mean drivers could receive a disqualification after two mobile phone offences.
Currently, novice drivers (who have passed their test in the last two years) can be disqualified after receiving 6 points instead of the usual 12. Under the new plans, this could mean an immediate ban for novice drivers after one mobile phone driving offence.
Dangers of mobile phone use
The DFT’s proposals come after a consultation on the penalties for handheld mobile phone use at the wheel.
The report revealed that the number of fines given out had dropped by 84% since 2011. In response to the consultation, 96% of people asked were in favour of increased sanctions for handheld mobile phone use at the wheel.
Out of the respondents to the consultation, 99% agreed that using a handheld mobile phone while driving is a dangerous activity. In fact, a previous TRL study suggests that mobile phone use while driving has a worse impact on driving ability than being above the drink driving limit.
Although there is no date for the proposed changes to come into place, the consultation response confirmed that the DFT “intends to lay legislation before Parliament as soon as possible.”