Ministers have announced tougher penalties for motorists who use their phones while driving. But will they make our roads safer?
The government is planning to increase fines for motorists who are caught using their phones at the wheel.
Ministers have just revealed proposals that will see a potential increase from three to four penalty points, and a rise in the fixed-penalty fine from £100 to £150.
New raft of policies
HGV drivers will face even tougher sanctions due to the fact that they’re capable of causing much more serious accidents.
Lorry drivers who call or text while at the wheel could be hit with six-point penalties. The on-the-spot fine will increase only to £150, though, in line with the changes planned for standard motorists.
These new penalties are included in a number of new policies aimed at improving road safety in the UK.
The government also wants to allow learner drivers to take motorway lessons as well as give the police greater powers to impose bans on dangerous drivers.
"Always looking to improve"
Former Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said: “Britain has some of the safest roads in the world but we are always looking to improve that record.
“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.
"We will take action to tackle this persistent problem, with an emphasis on the most serious offenders.”
McLoughlin added: “The message is clear: keep your hands on the wheel, not your phone. If you keep taking calls while at the wheel, you could end up being banned from the road.”
Support for crackdown
A number of recent studies have demonstrated widespread support among the public for a tougher stance on drivers who use mobile phones.
The RAC’s Report on Motoring 2015 found that 83% of motorists think it’s unacceptable to take even a short phone call while behind the wheel.
And almost three-quarters say it’s not safe to speak or text while in stationary traffic.
Research from the used-car service BCA found that 90% thought mobile-phone use was “very distracting”, while 95% said they had seen other drivers on the phone.
Many admit own guilt
But many motorists admit that they themselves are often guilty of texting, calling or even checking social media or other websites.
The BCA found that 42% of drivers admitted using a phone while at the wheel.
Tim Naylor at the BCA said:
“The interesting thing about this study is that, while almost everybody was happy to vent their indignation at other drivers’ carelessness, a large number also owned-up to the very things that concerned them.”
“But it’s clear from our research that there’s a groundswell of support for stronger penalties for using a mobile while driving – whether talking, texting or accessing social media.”
More police needed
Whether increasing penalty points and fixed-penalty fines will, however, lead to lower levels of offending remains unclear.
According to the RAC’s study, most drivers think that mobile-phone use would be best tackled by simply ensuring existing laws are properly observed.
Eight in 10 people say there’s no point in increasing fines unless there’s more effective enforcement.
And 62% say there aren’t enough police on the roads to ensure this is the case.
Worryingly, a minority of drivers see little wrong with some types of phone use.
The RAC research found that around one in eight motorists thought it was “reasonable” to take a short call with a handheld phone while driving.
And 17%, or one in six, said that using a phone to send text messages or check websites while stuck in traffic “posed little danger”.