The government is reportedly planning to double the fine for motorists caught illegally using a hand-held mobile phone at the wheel to £200 due to concerns over the number of collisions attributable to use of the devices – although a road safety expert says that the focus should instead be on enforcing existing rules.
According to Mail Online, motorists found guilty of the offence, which could also be extended to wearable technology such as the Apple Watch, could also have their driving licences endorsed with six penalty points.
The current penalty of a £100 fine and three penalty points was introduced three years ago, replacing the previous fine of £60.
Studies into the use of hand-held mobile phones to make calls, surf the internet or check email or social media sites at the wheel suggest it is more dangerous than driving while under the influence of drink or drugs.
In 2012, distracted drivers were responsible for 88 deaths on Britain’s roads, with mobile phone use involved in 17 of those fatalities.
Last week, a Scottish court convicted Julie Watson of causing the death by dangerous driving of cyclist Alistair Speed.
Watson, who will be sentenced next month, was found to have deleted the record of a phone call she made prior to the fatal collision on the A91 near Gateside in Fife, in September 2013.
A survey from road safety charity IAM earlier this month found people urging more money to be spent on road traffic policing, with drivers using mobile phones illegally their top concern.
Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin has warned drivers breaking the law that they could face tougher penalties.
“The number of casualties has been absolutely appalling,” he said last year. “We’ve got to change this. We’ve got to get that message across.
“The person who is using their phone doesn’t realise the damage or the danger that they could be in, so it ends up ruining different people’s lives.”
But Professor Stephen Glaister from the RAC Foundation has warned that stiffer penalties are meaningless if not accompanied by enforcement, since drivers do not believe they will be caught.
“The issue is less the size of the penalty and more the level of enforcement,” he warned. “The message seems clear: drivers believe they won’t be caught.”
A spokesman for the Department for Transport told Mail Online: “It’s illegal and dangerous for someone to use their phone for any reason while driving.
“To deter drivers from irresponsible behaviour, we introduced tougher penalties in 2013 and keep further measures under consideration.”
Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.