Kill conversation – hang up and switch off ahead of new mobile phone crackdown
- Credit: supplied
New penalties for using a hand-held mobile phone while driving come into force on March 1 but are they tough enough to make people hang up and switch off, asks motoring editor Andy Russell.
The car crawling along the main road through the village when I was walking the dog early one morning was going so slowly I thought it must have broken down or run out of petrol and was coasting to a stop.
As it passed me in the dark, I noticed the driver's face lit up by the glow of a mobile phone in their hand and their head bobbing up and down, their eyes flicking from the screen to the road ahead.
If you needed proof using a hand-held mobile phone while driving is dangerous this was it. Twice they drifted over the white line, then nearly clipped the nearside kerb and finally went through the traffics lights as they turned red, having had plenty of time and distance to have stopped safely on amber had they been paying attention.
It made me so cross I considered taking the registration number and reporting the driver to the police because these idiots deserve to be severely punished.
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If you're one of those people who still thinks using a hand-held phone while driving is fine, consider this – 22 people were killed and 99 seriously injured in accidents on Britain's roads in 2015 where a motorist using a mobile was a contributory factor.
From next Wednesday, drivers caught using mobile phones at the wheel will receive six penalty points and a £200 fine in a bid to clamp down on this socially-unacceptable and highly-dangerous behaviour.
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Doubling the penalty means just one mobile phone offence could see new drivers face having their licences revoked by getting six penalty points in the first two years of driving. So, not only is it a dangerous practice but it could be costly too as the new driver will be looking at spending more than £100 to reapply for a provisional licence and take new theory and practical tests and that's on top of the £200 fine.
Some people, including me, say the punishment still doesn't go far enough.
One suggestion is that mobile phones used illegally by drivers could be confiscated by police.
PC Jayne Willetts, the Police Federation of England and Wales' roads policing lead, suggested at national roads policing conference last month that the way forward might be officers seizing mobiles or Sim cards from offending drivers as a deterrent, alongside an education system and fines.
And Steve Gooding, director of motoring research charity the RAC Foundation, said: 'It would be a massive step to give police the power to mete out summary justice in this way.
'But, with far too many people still flouting the law, maybe it will take something as blunt and brutal as, 'you use it, you lose it', to get the message across.'
Road safety and breakdown specialist GEM Motoring Assist urges drivers, who might be tempted to use a phone at the wheel, to spend a few minutes before a journey to:
Make important calls.
Check voice messages, texts and emails.
Switch the phone off.
Store it way out of reach to remove any risk of reaching for it while driving.
GEM road safety officer Neil Worth said: 'A bit of planning is what's needed, and that can make a huge difference for safety. Anyone in a high-pressure working environment needs the support of colleagues and clients, so that we work together to remove the expectations on so many drivers to be available at all times. Let's put safety first on every journey.'
For more information about the law regarding using mobile phones while driving visit www.motoringassist.com/kill-the-conversation