From 1 March, drivers caught using their mobile while driving will face heavier penalties, the Department of Transport has announced.
The Government had originally sought feedback on proposed changes to penalties for the offence of using a hand-held mobile phone while driving, between January and March 2016. Following analysis of the consultation responses, the department decided to proceed with the following:
- Raise the fixed penalty points issued under a fixed penalty notice for this offence from 3 to 6 for all drivers.
- Raise the fixed penalty notice fine from £100 to £200 for all motor vehicles.
According to research by the RAC, an estimated 11 million motorists had admitted to making or receiving a phone call in the 12 months prior to their report being published with a further five million taking photos or videos while driving.
Fiona Burns, Health & Safety Consultant at Croner, says: “It is a criminal offence in the UK to drive any motor vehicle while using a hand-held mobile phone, or to cause or permit another to do so. A driver can also be prosecuted for using a hands-free device if they are not in proper control of their vehicle when using the device.
“We would urge employers to adopt a policy where no employee/worker should use a mobile telephone or similar piece of telecommunications equipment, whether hand-held, or hands-free, while driving.
“If it is essential that an employee is contacted while driving, company policy should advise the use of voicemail, a message service, and to stop regularly to check messages and return calls.
“An employer will not be liable for supplying a mobile phone, or for calling an employee who happens to be driving. However, if the employee answers, the employee is committing an offence. Employers must explain to employees what they are expected to do in terms of driving and phone calls.”
In a speech to Roads Police Officers at their National Roads Policing Conference on 26 January, Roads Minister Andrew Jones outlined three areas which cause the most accidents: drinks, drugs and mobile phones. Talking about mobile phone use and driving, he said: “Most of you would never think of using your mobile whilst driving. Talking. texting. checking updates. You know that it’s a serious crime which destroys lives. But for those motorists who don’t understand this, we’re increasing the penalties.
“From March (2017), it’ll cost 6 points on your licence. And the fixed penalty fine - doubled. So our message to anyone thinking about using their mobile whilst driving is simple. Don’t do it.”
The new rules apply in England, Scotland and Wales.
In another effort to reduce the number of driving-related incidents, the Sentencing Council has issued new guidelines, which will come in to effect in April 2017, for driving-related offences with new sentencing ranges for Band A - C fines:
- Band A fine - 3 points
- Band B fine - disqualify for 7 - 28 days or 4-6 points
- Band C fine - disqualify for 7 - 56 days or 6 points