Most drivers know that using a hand-held mobile phone while driving is an offence, so why do so many people continue to do it?
Insurers view a mobile phone offence extremely seriously with on average a 26% increase in premium or even withdrawal of cover from offenders. That compares with an average 12% premium increase for a speeding offence.
Yet many drivers appear to view the offence as minor, blatantly holding their phone to their ear whether manouevouring into a tight parking space in town or steaming up the outside lane of a motorway. Even worse, they are highly offended when stopped by police and given a ticket, all too often telling officers to ‘go and catch some real criminals’.
So this month the Department for Transport has opened up a public consultation on stricter penalties for using a hand-held mobile phone whilst driving.
Mobile phone consultation
The DfT’s consultation offers four options:
- Do nothing
- Increase fixed penalty notices from £100 to £150
- Increase penalty points from 3 to 4 for non-HGV drivers
- Increase penalty points from 3 to 6 where the offence takes place in an HGV
The preferred option is to implement the penalty level increase of a £150 FPN, 4 penalty points for non-HGV drivers and 6 penalty points for Large Goods Vehicle (HGV) drivers with a primary objective to encourage first time offenders to opt for remedial training courses where they are offered as an alternative.
The secondary objective is to act as a deterrent to offending and raise the ‘fear of getting caught’. The aim of this policy is not to overly punish first time offenders who genuinely make a mistake but come down hard on those who repeatedly offend and show no care for other road users.
Neil Greig, Institute of Advanced Motorists director of policy and research said: “Forcing all drivers caught using a hand-held mobile phone 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.”