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Mobile phone car penalty may double

Man checking phone while driving16/07/14

By Ian Lewis

The penalty for using a phone while driving could be doubled, Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said.

This would be under proposals being examined by the Government as part of a safety drive.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe has called for offenders to be handed six points on their licence.

This is rather than the present three, meaning a ban from getting behind the wheel if caught twice in three years.

Phone users 'don't realise the danger'

Mr McLoughlin said it was an "interesting suggestion" that he was considering in an effort to end the "appalling" number of people killed and seriously injured in accidents.

"The amounts of casualties there have been are absolutely appalling and the person who is using their phone doesn't realise the damage or the danger," he told journalists.

"In 2011 driving while using a mobile phone was recorded as a contributory factor on some 23 fatalities and 74 serious injuries.

"We have got to change this and we have got to get that message across.

"Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe has called for six penalty points for the use of a mobile phone. It is an interesting suggestion.

"It is one that I would want to look at. There could be some difficulties about it but I think we have got to get the message across to people about safety.

"We have been very lucky in this country in seeing, year on year, the number of road deaths and casualties actually falling.

"But one death is one too many and we need to look at those and see where we are going."

Texting while driving 'worse than cannabis'

The Scotland Yard chief spoke out in March after figures showed the first increase in deaths and injuries on the capital's roads for two decades.

It has been illegal since December 2003 to use a mobile phone held in the hand while driving.

Professor Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation, said the problem was not with penalties but with enforcement. 

"Our own research shows how dangerous using a mobile at the wheel can be," he said.

"Texting while driving impairs reactions more than being at the drink-drive limit or high on cannabis.

"However the large number of motorists still using phones at the wheel is less about the size of penalties and more about the chance of being caught.

"The Department for Transport's figures show that on two previous occasions when this law was tightened the number of people offending initially dropped but then rapidly rose again.

"The conclusion must be that drivers simply don't think they are going to be caught."

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