New laws coming into force on 1 March will mean that drivers caught using their mobile phone while at the wheel will face double penalty points and a double fine.
Current legislation means drivers receive a three-point penalty and £100 fine for the offence, but new rules will see that increase to six points and £200.
Using a mobile phone while driving has been illegal in the UK since 2003 but, despite that, a report released last year by the RAC revealed that almost a third (31 per cent) of drivers admitted to using a mobile phone while at the wheel.
The National Police Chiefs Council reported that: “In 2014 the use of a mobile phone was a factor in 21 fatal accidents and 84 serious accidents. Use of a mobile phone up to 10 minutes before a crash was associated with a fourfold increased likelihood of crashing.”
Support for the change
Despite the apparent prevalence of drivers using mobile phones and other handheld devices, it appears that public opinion is firmly behind tougher sentencing for those caught in the act by police.
The results of a consultation on the law change were published last year by the Department for Transport and showed that 99 per cent of respondents agreed that using a mobile phone while driving was dangerous while 96 per cent were in favour of increased sanctions.
Meanwhile an AA survey of 19,000 drivers, published last month, found that 65 per cent of drivers would support police seizing the mobile phones of offenders while two fifths would be happy for police to destroy the device on site.
Edmund King, AA president, said: “Whilst some of these measures may sound extreme it does show the strength of feeling of the public.
“We actually believe that the Government’s intention of doubling the penalty points to six and increasing the fine to £200 will be effective if enforced. Six points means that drivers within two years of passing their test will lose their licence and have to re-sit their test. One text and they will be out.”