road safety policy
Firms should have a zero use policy on mobile phones
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Hand-held mobiles – new driver penalties

  • 6 licence penalty points
  • £200 fine
  • No option of remedial training
  • Novice drivers (less than 2 years full licence) will have licence revoked and must retake theory and practical driving tests
  • Truck and bus drivers face having licence revoked by Traffic Commissioners under their 6-point limit

TRUCK drivers and novice car and van drivers will be hardest hit by new mobile phone penalties for using hand-held phones while driving – losing their licence at the first click to call, text or use social media.

And there are no ‘soft option’ remedial awareness courses offered instead of the new 6 points penalty and £200 fixed penalty notice (FPN) fine, announced the Department for Transport.

The legislation introduced after nearly a year of public consultation doubled the previous penalties of £100 FPN and 3 points.

The higher risk of disqualification also hangs over anyone who already has penalty points on their licence, such as for speeding.

For many it could mean the loss of a job, while any ban is harshly treated by insurance companies both in terms of premiums and whether they will offer cover, and this will also influence employers.

Penalties history of phones and driving

  • In 2003 penalty fines were introduced at £30.
  • In 2007 the fine was increased to £60 and points were introduced at 3 for all offending drivers.
  •  In 2013 the fine was increased to £100. Despite this, there has been no sustained reduction in observed mobile phone use over time
  • March 1 2017 fixed penalty doubled to £200 and 6 points

The public consultation brought overwhelming support for penalties to be increased by far more than first proposed when the review went to consultation – with public demand for action accentuated by headline cases of fatal crashes involving drivers using their phones.

In one case a trucker killed a mother and three children in a stationary car on the A34 near Newbury in Berkshire in 2016. He was jailed for ten years.

The DfT said evidence suggested “that mobile phone use while driving has a worse impact on driving ability than being above the drink driving limit” and steadily increased penalties had had no impact.

The Government rejected calls for truck drivers to be treated differently, saying: “Given the tragic consequences which can result from any driver using a mobile phone when driving, it is important that all drivers understand the consequences of their actions.”

It added: “For vocational drivers, the increase in the FPN points will have a higher impact as Traffic Commissioners can already revoke their HGV/PSV licence entitlement once 6 points are reached.”

Higher penalties for using any phone while driving

  • The new penalties are just the entry level and relate specifically to the law regarding hand-held phones.
  • It is also an offence to use either a hand-held or hands-free phone while driving if it distracts the driver’s attention, resulting in careless or dangerous driving.
  • The penalties include disqualification, a large fine and up to two years imprisonment.
  • The rules still apply if you’re stopped at traffic lights or queuing in traffic.
  • It’s also illegal to use a hand-held phone or similar device when supervising a learner driver or rider
  • For more click here

Novice drivers (those who passed their test in the last 2 years) have their licence revoked by DVLA once they reach 6 points (rather than the usual 12 points) under the New Drivers Act and so they will be put off the road at their first offence.

Adding to the financial penalties, to regain their licence they must reapply for a provisional licence and pass both further theory and practical driving tests.

The DfT said: “The evidence shows that young drivers are the most likely group to be observed using a mobile phone while driving . The majority of novice drivers are young people, below the age of 25, and, although it is recognised that this group will be disproportionately impacted, they are also more likely to offend in the first place.

“Targeting this group with relatively higher penalties is thus likely to lead to greater behavioural change and more positive road safety outcomes.”

Many respondents were concerned about the enforcement of the offence and the Freight Transport Association (FTA), while welcoming the tougher penalties, says better enforcement is essential.

Ian Gallagher, FTA head of driver and vehicle licensing policy, said: “These [proposed] changes should go some way towards making all drivers think about the consequences of their actions.

“Vocational drivers also risk their livelihood as many of our members already have in place a zero tolerance for employees in breach of these rules.”

The DfT concedes that “detection can be difficult as mobile phones can be used surreptitiously while driving” but says it will provide additional guidance or advice and “consider new technology where it aids detection and ensure effective prosecution by the police.”

It adds: “Enforcement alone will not fully address the behaviour. While stronger penalties send a clear message on the seriousness of the offence and can act as a strong deterrent there is strong public concern about what has become a pervasive and unconscious behaviour by many to continue use their mobile phone for calls and texting when driving.

“We are willing to work with industry on technology that would encourage better and safer behaviour and we want to take full advantage rapidly developing in-car technology and where it can support safe driving behaviour.

“However, the consultation response is clear that even with technology such as drive-safe modes it is ultimately the driver that has to take responsibility for their actions.

In support of all of these measures, a THINK! campaign highlighting the dangers of using a mobile phone while driving accompanies the increased penalties in order to raise awareness of the change and to make mobile phone use while driving socially unacceptable

 

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