The Government has confirmed it is planning to double the penalties for those caught using a mobile phone while driving.
Announced today (8 Nov) as part of a response into a consultation on the issue, the move means that those found committing the offence will be docked six points and receive a £200 fine.
The increase in penalty points would mean an immediate ban for newly-qualified drivers who have a ceiling of six points for the first two years after passing the test.
The move has been welcomed by stakeholders, including the RAC and IAM RoadSmart.
In January, the Government launched its consultation seeking views on proposals to increase penalty points and fixed penalty notice (FPN) levels for the offence.
In September, it was widely reported that the penalty was to double from three points and a £100 fine – a decision that was confirmed by today’s response.
Also confirmed in today’s response is that the DfT will launch a THINK! campaign highlighting the dangers of using a mobile phone while driving. The campaign will aim to raise awareness of the changes in order to stimulate a change in behaviour that road users are looking for.
The DfT is also planning to conduct a roadside observational survey to monitor the effectiveness of the changes. The department says this will help it consider whether further measures need to be taken, for example further behaviour change programmes such as a larger scale awareness campaigns.
IAM RoadSmart has welcomed them move, saying that drivers need to learn that their actions could kill.
Neil Greig, IAM RoadSmart director of policy and research, said: “Addressing the growing problem of smartphone use whilst driving will require a combination of enforcement and education as well as drivers, passengers, companies and individuals taking more responsibility.
“IAM RoadSmart is disappointed that the government did not support our calls for first time offenders to be sent automatically on a re-education course specifically tailored to mobile phone use and breaking our apparent addiction to being constantly connected. We also want to see car companies, mobile phone makers and social media providers working together to develop technical solutions to hand held mobile phone use in vehicles.”
The RAC is also welcoming the stiffer penalties for handheld mobile phone use, and believes the move will send a very strong message to motorists.
Pete Williams, RAC road safety spokesman, said: “We welcome stiffer penalties for handheld mobile phone use and believe this will send a very strong message to motorists.
"However, we believe this has to be done in conjunction with a heavyweight road safety campaign so we therefore welcome initial proposals for a new THINK! initiative. The RAC’s Report on Motoring 2016 identified that the problem is at epidemic proportions as almost half (48%) of motorists admitted to using a handheld phone at the wheel to talk, text or use other apps in the last year."