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Drivers using Mobiles to Face Tougher Sentencing

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This week the government unveiled their plans to keep the UK’s roads safe with a number of tougher fines and legislations. One of the biggest causes of accidents on the roads is using a mobile phone behind the wheel, with a recent report by the Transport Research Laboratory showing that texting while driving distracts drivers more than driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

The study revealed that drivers who are undistracted usually have a reaction time of one second, while those that are texting have a reaction time of 37 seconds. In comparison, drivers that are at the drink-drive limit have a reaction time of 13 seconds and drivers that are high on cannabis have a reaction time of 21 seconds. The study concludes that using a mobile device behind the wheel is incredibly dangerous, which is why many road safety campaigners have called for there to be tougher punishments for those caught doing so.

However, just last week road safety minister, Robert Goodwill, said: “I will see if we need to change the penalties. The best deterrent for this kind of dangerous behaviour is the certainty of being detected.” It seems as though not long after the government decided that increasing penalties is the best way to discourage drivers from using their mobile phones while behind the wheel, which is why this week it was announced that perpetrators could now be fined up to four thousand pounds.

Justice Minister Jeremy Wright said that the new stricter fines are “an effective way of punishing criminals and deterring them from further offending. Magistrates are the cornerstone of our justice system and these changes will provide them with greater powers to deal with the day-to-day offences that impact their local communities. Financial penalties set at the right level can be an effective way of punishing criminals and deterring them from further offending.” Along with being able to give out larger fines to those caught using their mobile phones behind the wheel, magistrates will now also be able to fine up to ten thousand pounds for drivers who are caught speeding.

However, even though some people are supporting the government’s plans to discourage dangerous driving, official figures have shown that the total amount of motoring offences in the UK has decreased recently. In 2012 there were 378 accidents involving mobile phones which caused 548 injuries and 17 deaths, however between May 2012 and August 2013 the number of people with points on their licences due to using a mobile phone fell by fourteen percent from 677,500 to 583,700.

As figures show that there are now fewer accidents involving mobile phones some motoring groups are claiming that these new rules are ‘draconian’ and won’t benefit drivers. For example, Pete Williams, head of external affairs at the RAC, said: “What we’re seeing is an ever-increasing level of fines and penalties for motorists coming out of Whitehall with little to no improvement in how these are enforced. Many motorists who do speed don’t think they will get caught despite the already significant fines.

“When will we hear the Government is investing in better road safety awareness campaigns and police on the roads, rather than just doling out what looks like revenue-boosting punishment?” However, James McLoughlin of the charity Brake supports the new legislation and said: “Limits are there for a reason, and more needs to be done to deter those who choose to put other road users at risk by breaking them.” Edmund King, president of the AA, also weighed in on the issue, and claimed that even though figures are showing that there have been fewer cases of people being caught using mobile phones this could be due to a lack of police.

Mr King added: “It hasn’t been a priority. We need to send out a warning to drivers that the police forces will have a dedicated crackdown. They need to pull over … every single driver seen with a phone.” It has not yet been revealed whether car and motor trade insurance premiums will increase due to these new rules, however it is extremely likely as drivers are now more risky to insure.

Photo by Intel Free Press / CC BY-SA 2.0

by David Hambridge