Penalty points and fines for using a handheld mobile phone at the wheel have doubled from today. Campaigners welcomed the news, while urging the government to do more to combat distracted driving.
The BBC reports that penalties for using a phone at the wheel have doubled to six points and a £200 fine.
As drivers can have their licence revoked should they accrue six points within two years of passing their test, the change will mean anyone caught during this period would have to retake their practical and theory tests.
The change arrives alongside a seven-day police crackdown, with extra patrols and an "increased focus" on stopping anyone using their phone while driving.
Duncan Dollimore, Cycling UK’s Senior Road Safety and Legal Campaigns officer said: “Increasing the penalties for mobile use at the wheel is a welcome first step towards making it as socially unacceptable as drunk driving.
“However, unless drivers have a fear of being caught, the penalty alone is not an effective deterrent. We need regular ongoing enforcement, which means forces must prioritise roads policing so that the decline in traffic officer numbers is reversed.”
The latest figures indicate that traffic police numbers dropped by 37 per cent in the ten years from 2004 to 2014, while overall police numbers dropped by only three per cent.
Dollimore added: “The current offence only relates to handheld phones. It doesn’t address the wider problem of distracted driving. Evidence shows that hands-free phones present similar risks to drivers’ concentration on the road. The Government should start looking into this issue as well.”
RAC road safety spokesman Pete Williams said: “The use of handheld mobile phones is at epidemic proportions and sadly the attitudes of many drivers have relaxed towards this illegal and dangerous activity. The new tougher penalties will therefore be welcomed by law-abiding motorists as a better deterrent.”