DfT launches consultation into increasing penalties for mobile phone use

12.00 | 26 January 2016 | | 4 comments

The Government has launched a consultation seeking views on proposals to increase penalty points and fixed penalty notice (FPN) levels for using a hand-held mobile phone while driving.

This consultation, launched on 26 January, seeks feedback on proposals for increasing the FPN level from £100 to £150 for all drivers.

It also invites views on increasing the penalty points from three to four points for non-HGV drivers, and from three to six points for HGV licence holders who commit the offence while driving an HGV.

The Government first outlined its plans to increase penalties for drivers caught using a mobile phone in its road safety plan in December.

In September 2015, the RAC Report on Motoring revealed that 79% of drivers feel there is no point in increasing penalties for driving offences until there is effective enforcement.

The report also highlighted that 62% of drivers believe that there are insufficient police on the roads to enforce driving laws, while recent figures published by Auto Express show that the number of full-time traffic police operating in England and Wales has been cut by almost a third since 2010.

In addition to questions about increasing penalties, the DfT consultation also seeks views on a number of related issues including: whether HGV drivers should be offered a remedial training course for a first offence instead of a FPN; the role the mobile phone and insurance industries might play in improving road safety, including new technology with ‘drive safe’ modes; and whether new technologies should be targeted at certain groups of drivers including young drivers, van drivers, and people driving for work.

Click here to see the full consultation document and details of how to respond.

Stakeholder comment

Road Safety GB has welcomed the proposals, while at the same time urging the Government to widen the legislation to cover the use of all mobile devices.

Honor Byford, chair of Road Safety GB, said: "At a local level road safety practitioners receive more complaints about mobile phone use than any other subject.

"We welcome the proposals, especially the recognition that lorry drivers using their phones whilst driving 30, 40 or more tons of vehicle is a greater risk to other road users as well as being unprofessional and disregarding the safety of everyone else on and near to roads.

"While we feel that this is a positive move forward, we continue to urge central government to consider widening the legislation to cover all use of mobile devices, not just those that are hand held. As the research tells us, it is the conversation that kills."

The Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) has also welcomed the consultation but says more needs to be done to educate drivers and improve enforcement.

Neil Greig, IAM director of policy and research said: “Forcing all drivers caught using a hand-held mobile for the first time to attend a re-education course would be a really positive step.

“For many, smartphone use has become an addiction that we can only start to cure through some form of therapy. The IAM does not object to tougher penalties but we do believe that the real deterrent is fear of being caught. That fear can only be increased by increasing the numbers of traffic police on our roads.”



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    Great idea. But what is the use of penalties or even increased penalties, if the police don’t do anything (at least in this area) about it?

    Nigel Albright
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    I think that Mike Woof is conflating the awarding of penalty points with the decision on whether to ban once one has 12 or more points. Here is a comment I made when this came up recently on automated speed enforcement and subsequent bans:

    Whilst there can be some mitigation of the penalty points or fines for such offences based on circumstances, once one becomes a “totter” and by virtue of the offence reaches 12 or more points then there can be no mitigation of the disqualification due to either the circumstances of the offence. In fact suffering “hardship” on its own does not allow the ban to be avoided and only “exceptional hardship” may be used to justify not imposing a ban.

    Hence, whether the prosecution is automated or no, or the circumstances of the offence have no bearing whatsoever on the avoidance of a ban. Therefore your assertion that it is judges using their discretion not to ban totters due to the automated nature of the prosecution is unfounded.

    I found the following a useful reference which I assume to be a correct analysis of current practice http://www.onepaper.co.uk/JAM%20Exceptional%20hardship.pdf

    Rod King, 20’s Plenty for Us
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    This from the latest TISPOL bulletin.
    Mike Woof, Editor of World Highways, sent us this comment relating to our item about many UK courts failing to enforce bans on drivers with 12 or more penalty points:
    Reporting regularly on road safety gives me a strong understanding of the risks involved in driving and penalties against offenders. There are clearly many shortfalls with the present process.

    For example, it is well known through research that using a cellphone while driving is at least as risky as driving under the influence of alcohol. Yet while driving under the influence of alcohol will result in 12 penalty points and a one year ban, the penalty for using a cellphone at the wheel has been increased from two points to three and is still clearly insufficient. Texting or using the Internet while driving is known to be even more risky than drinking and driving and given the dangers involved, a two year ban would be appropriate. But the penalties are out of step with the risk, which is one reason why cellphone use at the wheel is so common.

    Peter City of Westminster
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    According to the government’s own contributory factors in accidents data 2014, mobile phone use is a factor in 1% of fatal accidents and 0.5% of serious accidents. There’s not much excuse for any claimed ‘under reporting’ as the police can have access to drivers mobile phone records if phone use is suspected. Aside from obvious enforcement problems, is it just hands-free use that is the main problem, or is it the conversation itself, even if hands-free, that provides a potentially dangerous distraction? Personally speaking, I am unable to safely hold a hands-free conversation whilst driving, so I don’t. Texting or emailing is clearly most dangerous. I did hear an advert on the radio recently that was promoting an app for listening to text messages. The educational message should really be don’t use a phone hand held or hands free when you are on the move, not forgetting it’s still an offence to use a hand held phone while stationary with the engine running.

    Paul Biggs, Staffordshire
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

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