Ministers set 'to double punishment for illegal mobile phone use'


Ministers want to double the punishment for illegal mobile phone use, Government sources said.

Motorists caught using a handheld phone are currently given three penalty points and a minimum fine of £100, but this is set to be increased to six points and £200 under the plans.

New drivers have their licence revoked if they get six points within two years of passing the test.

The tougher sanctions would mean young drivers losing their licence the first time they are caught using a handheld phone.


AA president Edmund King said: "This is radical. One text and you're out. But if we are to change the attitudes of young drivers maybe it has to be that harsh.

"They are going to have to turn off their phones at the wheel otherwise they will be taken off the road."

New drivers who are disqualified have to pay for a new provisional licence and pass the theory and practical tests again to regain their full licence.

More experienced motorists can lose their licence if they accrue 12 penalty points within a three-year period.

Department for Transport (DfT) figures show that a driver impaired or distracted by their phone was a contributory factor in 492 accidents in Britain in 2014, including 21 that were fatal and 84 classed as serious.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling pledged to introduce tougher sanctions for illegal mobile phone use as soon as possible.

He said: "As technology develops, mobile phones are common place, but we need to take responsibility for our actions and as drink or drug driving has become socially unacceptable, so must using mobile phones at the wheel.

"It may seem harmless when you are replying to a text, answering a call or using an app, but the truth is your actions could kill and cause untold misery to others.

"We all have a part to play in ensuring our family and friends do not use their phones while driving. I will be announcing a tougher new penalty regime shortly."

The proposals go further than a Government consultation launched in December 2015 which suggested raising penalty points to just four and increasing fines to £150.

Mr King supported the move to increase sanctions by 100%.

"Driving while using a phone is a dangerous habit which has only got worse over the last couple of years," he said.

"The current fines and points are not enough of a deterrent. We need to double the fines and double the penalty points to have a real impact."

RAC research published earlier this week suggested that illegal mobile phone use is on the rise.

Almost one-third (31%) of motorists admitted to using a handheld phone behind the wheel compared to just 8% in 2014 the survey of 1,714 UK motorists found.

The proportion of drivers who confessed to sending a message or posting on social media rose from 7% to 19% over the same period.

Some 14% of motorists even owned up to taking photographs or videos with their phone while driving.

The RAC believes a 27% fall in the number of full-time dedicated roads policing officers in England and Wales (excluding London) between 2010 and 2015 has left drivers with no fear that they will be caught for offences which are not detected by automatic cameras.

The breakdown organisation's road safety spokesman Pete Williams said: "The fact that drivers have little or no confidence that they will be caught when breaking these laws is a likely contributor to the problem and it is sadly the case that every day most road users see other drivers brazenly using their handheld phones when in control of a vehicle - a sight which should be a thing of the past."

National Police Chiefs' Council lead for roads policing, chief constable Suzette Davenport, said: "Using mobile phones is one of the most dangerous behaviours for motorists, putting drivers, passengers and others on the road at risk of death and serious harm.

"We welcome the tougher penalties announced by the Department of Transport."

Jayne Willetts, lead for roads policing for the Police Federation of England and Wales, commented: "Police do actively target people using mobile phones when they are out on duty, but unfortunately, with fewer officers out on the roads, more of these offences are going undetected."