Blog: It’s double the penalty or quit for drivers using hand-held phones

Police have launched a fresh crackdown on drivers who use mobile phones. Picture: Archant Library

Police have launched a fresh crackdown on drivers who use mobile phones. Picture: Archant Library - Credit: supplied

Blog: Doubling the penalty for drivers using a handheld mobile phone sends out a clear message that this potentially-fatal behaviour will not be tolerated, Motoring editor Andy Russell also wants to see a hard-hitting campaign to back it up.

Much to the delight of road safety charities, the government this week doubled the punishment for people caught using a hand-held mobile phone while driving.

Culprits will now be fined £200 and receive six points on their driving licence.

IAM RoadSmart welcomed an increase, saying drivers needed to learn that their actions could kill.

Neil Greig, IAM RoadSmart director of policy and research, said: 'Addressing the growing problem of smartphone use whilst driving will require a combination of enforcement and education as well as drivers, passengers, companies and individuals taking more responsibility.'

But it was disappointed the government did not support its calls for first-time offenders to be sent automatically on a re-education course tailored to mobile phone use and breaking some people's addiction to being constantly connected.

It also wants to see car companies, mobile phone makers and social media providers working together to develop technical solutions to hand-held mobile phone use in vehicles.

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He added: 'It is essential that drivers get the clear message that if you are on the phone, and have a fatal crash, you can expect to go to prison for a long time.'

And GEM Motoring Assist's road safety officer Neil Worth said: 'We absolutely must create an environment where drivers take more responsibility for their actions.

'We want to see publicity campaigns setting out the dangers – and the costs – for those who may still regard mobile phone use as acceptable when driving. Let's also call for a more responsible attitude from the people they may be speaking to. If you know you're talking to someone who's driving, then tell them to call back when it's safe.'

But it's not just a case of making these irresponsible and selfish drivers fearful of the consequences of being caught using a hand-held phone, that's assuming they are remotely bothered, but it's also about making them aware of the consequences if they have an accident. It's teaching them that lesson before they or, worse still, their victims learn it the hard way.

The issue was brought into sharp focus last month when lorry driver Tomasz Kroker was jailed for 10 years when he killed a mother, her two sons and stepdaughter when he hit their car at the end of a stationary queue of traffic at 50mph. He was flicking through his mobile phone at the time while only glancing at the road ahead. Their car was pushed beneath a lorry in front and crushed to a third of its size.

The video from his dash cam – released to show what happened in the lead-up to the accident – still sends a cold shiver down my spine when I see it.

It's footage of this kind that needs to be built into any educational campaigns. It's not ghoulish but a short, sharp shock treatment that really highlights how such a needless tragedy like this can happen because of some drivers' stupidity. If it prevents a similar thing happening to other innocent families at least that is some consolation.

Have you been involved in an accident where using a hand-held mobile phone was a cause? Email motoring@archant.co.uk

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