For this week’s blog, we’re branching out and looking at safety on the roads instead of the workplace. In particular, we’re discussing the new mobile phone penalties introduced in March this year.

Back in 2003, using your mobile phone at the wheel would cost you a measily £30. In an attempt to curb rapidly increasing phone usage by drivers, the government increased the fine in 2007 to £60 and again in 2013 to £100.

However, despite the 233% increase in the amount of the fine, there has been “no sustained reduction in observed mobile phone use over time” according to the Department for Transport.

And that simply isn’t good enough. Mobile phone usage behind the wheel is costing lives. Just look at these figures from the past year.


22 people killed


99 people seriously injured

Twenty-two people lost their lives because someone thought it was acceptable to drive while using a phone. RoSPA estimates that drivers who use a mobile phone are “four times more likely to crash, injuring or killing themselves and other people.

This is clearly a serious safety issue.

 

New Mobile Phone Penalties

From 1st March 2017, drivers caught using their phones at the wheel will face:

  • 6 penalty points
  • £200 fine

Repeat offenders will face enhanced penalties of a £1,000 fine and a six-month driving ban.

The new penalties are exceptionally worrying for newly qualified drivers. Unlike regular drivers who can accrue 12 penalty points before losing their license, new drivers are limited to six points.

So, if a newly qualified driver is found using their phone a single time in their first two years on the road, they will lose their license.

In Scotland, 42 people were caught using mobile phones while driving between the 1st and 6th of March. So, it’s clear that not everyone has taken the message to heart.

 

Will It Work?

Unfortunately, all previous attempts to curb phone usage have failed. Fines were first introduced in 2013 and had no real impact on phone usage amongst motorists. Neither doubling the fine in 2007 nor rounding it up to £100 in 2013 had any effect either.

However, transport secretary, Chris Grayling, believes the new penalties send a strong message that simply can’t be ignored.

Our message is simple and clear: do not get distracted by your mobile phone while driving. It may seem innocent, but holding and using your phone at the wheel risks serious injury and even death to yourself and other road users

 

Doubling penalties will act as a strong deterrent to motorists tempted to pick up their phone while driving and will also mean repeat offenders could find themselves banned from our roads if they are caught twice.

 

Everyone has a part to play in encouraging their family and friends not to use their phones while driving – it is as inexcusable as drink driving.

So, why is this increase any different?

Well, the fine has doubled again, reaching dizzying new heights. Considering driving in a bus lane earns you a £60 fine, the £200 mobile phone penalty attempts to push the offence away from casual misdemeanours and into a new bracket. It’s not a slap on the wrist anymore but a hefty financial imposition.

Then there’s the new driver element. New drivers can only accrue six points on their license before they’re disqualified. So, if a driver is caught on their phone at any point within their first two years on the road, they will lose their license.

Road safety charity, Brake, however, questions whether the increase is large enough. A spokesperson, Jack Kushner, said:

Driving is the most dangerous thing most of us do on a daily basis, and individuals who use a mobile phone behind the wheel dramatically increase their risk of crashing and killing or seriously injuring someone.

 

Whilst Brake welcomes this increase in penalty points for individuals caught using a mobile phone whilst driving, the financial penalty needs to be significantly increased, to act as a serious deterrent and to get the message across that using a phone behind the wheel is completely unacceptable.

 

Mobile phone use behind the wheel is a growing menace, and rigorous enforcement and tough penalties are required to crackdown on this illegal, dangerous driving behaviour.

 

We need to make phone use as big a taboo as drink driving and law enforcement can play a massive part in that. But the simplest way to protect yourself is to simply switch your phone to silent, and put it out of sight and reach when you’re driving. Also pledge to never chat on the phone to someone else who’s driving.

We are inclined to agree with Brake on the issue. After all, the phone is more ingrained in our lives than it’s ever been before.

We take calls, send texts and check Facebook. We chat on WhatsApp, snap on SnapChat and post on Instagram. Our phones are mini satnavs, digital diaries and a bite-sized copy of every single newspaper. We run businesses from our palm and store whole libraries in our pockets. It’s amazing and addictive in equal measure.

Convincing drivers to put put their phones down is a tough ask.

One-third of drivers admit to using their phone to take calls while driving and one-fifth admit to sending texts.

It’s going to take something seismic to alter this behaviour.

It will be immensely interesting to see whether the new penalties have any lasting effect on driver behaviour. We certainly hope that they will.

 

Do you think the increased fines will make a difference to road safety? Let us know what you think on Facebook!