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Do proposed mobile phone penalties go far enough?

06 January 2016

Last month the Government announced that motorists who use handheld mobile phones while driving could face an increase from the current three penalty points to four, and fines could go up to £150 from £100. The proposals form part of the Department of Transport's road safety plan which the Government will be consulting on in 2016.

But with mobile phone use increasingly a contributory factor to road accidents in Britain do the proposals go far enough?

According to a Department for Transport (DfT) study, 1.6% of all drivers in England were observed using a mobile phone in 2014, up from 1.4% in 2009 and statistics show mobile phone use contributed to 21 fatal accidents and  84 serious accidents in 2014. Yet analysis of Ministry of Justice data, published by the RAC in October 2015, shows that prosecutions for the offence have fallen by almost half in five years.

It’s no surprise then that more severe penalties for offenders have been welcomed. Michael Lloyd, director of AA Car Insurance, has praised the Government for at last catching up with the insurance industry, which has long regarded mobile phone offences as being significantly more serious than speeding.

Explains Lloyd: “Drivers using a handheld mobile phone are at four times greater risk of having a crash than a driver not using one and I’m delighted that the penalty will now better reflect the seriousness of this offence.

"Car insurers already reflect this in the premiums of offenders who can expect an average premium increase twice that imposed for a speeding conviction."

But some are questioning whether the proposed measures will have any real impact. Tim Shallcross from the Institute of Advanced Motorists says evidence shows previous increases in fines have not changed driving behaviour, explaining: "The Department for Transport's own research showed that when they doubled the penalty from £50 to £100 in 2013 it made no discernible difference whatsoever."

"What deters people from using mobile phones is the fear of being caught and, frankly, with fewer police on the roads that possibility is becoming less and less."

With even the police finding it difficult to resist using their mobile phone while driving, Top cop is'caught using mobile phone while driving away from police station and
Police officer filmed using mobile phone while driving police van does the Government need to have a radical rethink on laws governing mobile phone use?

What do you think? Do the Government's proposed increases in penalties for mobile phone use while driving go far enough? If not, what do you think would really deter motorists from using mobile phones while driving? We’d like to hear your views.