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.
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.”