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Cycling UK and AA urge Government to get tough on drivers who use mobile phones at wheel

Organisations also say motorists with 12 points should only be allowed to keep licence “in truly extraordinary circumstances"...

Motoring organisation the AA and the charity Cycling UK have joined forces to urge the Government to get tougher on motorists who illegally use mobile devices at the wheel and to close a loophole that allows drivers who have amassed 12 penalty points to escape a ban because it will cause them hardship.

Their joint appeal, aimed at highlighting the concerns of a broad spectrum of road users, comes as MPs and members of the House of Lords take part in a Westminster Hall debate today about the Ministry of Justice’s forthcoming review of motoring offences and sentencing.

In September, the Government announced plans to double the penalty for illegal use of a handheld device such as a mobile phone while driving to a £200 fine plus six penalty points.

But road safety organisations believe that in the absence of enforcement that will still be an insufficient deterrent since many motorists who drive while using handheld devices believe they won’t be caught.

Recent Home Office statistics show that the number of fines issued for the offence last year were around a tenth of what they had been a decade earlier, despite the rise of smartphones and social networks in the intervening period.

> Number of drivers fined for using mobile phone plummets

Duncan Dollimore, Cycling UK's senior road safety and legal campaigns officer, said: “Now is the time to make distracted driving, like texting and driving, as taboo as not wearing a seatbelt or drink-driving.

“We must tackle this problem head-on because it led to 22 deaths and 440 crashes last year.”

Those figures relate solely to incidents specifically attributed to mobile phone use in police collision reports.

It’s likely that many more linked to use of mobile devices, including phones will have been attributed to ‘in-vehicle distraction’ with government figures attributing 61 deaths and 2,920 crashes in which someone was killed or seriously injured last year to that factor.

“The devastating consequences of distracted driving are vividly portrayed in our latest campaign film, Cadence, which we released last week,” said AA president Edmund King.

“Hopefully, our collective efforts to affect behaviour change, together with the Government’s recent announcement intending to increase penalties for mobile phone use while driving, will help to make this mobile madness socially unacceptable," he added.

> Cycling UK backs AA's #NeverTextDrive campaign

According to the AA and Cycling UK, there are currently around 8,600 motorists on Britain’s roads who have been given 12 penalty points but were allowed to keep their driving licences.

The organisations have urged that new drivers who commit the offence as well as repeat offenders should be disqualified from driving and that a reprieve should only be given “in truly extraordinary circumstances, not just because a ban would cause inconvenience or predictable hardship.”

Last month, van driver Christopher Gard was jailed for nine years after he killed cyclist Christopher Martin in 2015 while sending a text.

Just six weeks earlier, Gard, who had eight previous convictions for using a mobile phone, had persuaded magistrates to let him keep his licence so as not to suffer ‘exceptional hardship.’

The motorist is appealing against his sentence.

> Texting driver who killed cyclist granted leave to appeal sentence

Dollimore said: “Cycling UK wants to see drivers who repeat-offend off the road before they kill or cause serious injury. Something the current review will not address.

“That is why Cycling UK has joined forces with the AA – to show Government that road users are collectively serious about ending avoidable deaths and serious injuries on our roads.”

He added: “The Government must act now to prevent grotesque spectacles like this Gard case from happening again. We need no more delays from this Government on what is such an important matter.

“Cycling UK has been waiting for a full and proper review of motoring offences and penalties since May 2014. Further delay would put many more lives at risk.”

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.

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12 comments

Avatar
PaulBox | 7 years ago
1 like

A couple of observations...

Many years ago (15'ish) I was driving home from work (30m) while talking to my boss about a project that we were working on for the whole journey. When I got home I realised that I couldn't remember anything of the journey. Since then I've never used hands free to talk about anything work related/complicated. I do use it if my wife calls, as she is probably just asking when I'll be home so the dinner is ready...

Driving (very slowly) on the M25 this morning I was in the outside lane, I noticed at least 5 or 6 drivers on the lane inside me doing things on their phones, it wouldn't be hard to police, just need an unmarked car with a couple of video cameras attached. As long as legislation allows prosecution on that basis obviously.

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ooldbaker | 7 years ago
0 likes

This is the tyoe of thing that scares me.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yd1fZmYY9kE

It has to be an accident waiting to happen.

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Awavey | 7 years ago
1 like

You could reintroduce the death penalty for it,it won't make a jot of difference till we focus on actually policing it and enforcing that law properly.People still use mobiles while driving not because of the penalty, but because they know they'll get away with it

Avatar
davel replied to Awavey | 7 years ago
3 likes
Awavey wrote:

You could reintroduce the death penalty for it,it won't make a jot of difference till we focus on actually policing it and enforcing that law properly.People still use mobiles while driving not because of the penalty, but because they know they'll get away with it

Quite right, but the best that we can hope for is targeted campaigns. For the next 4 years we've got a government that is ideologically wedded to austerity, because it reduces debt. Except when it doesn't, which is when the debt increases quite clearly, each year. Like it has each and every year under 'austerity'. OK, but we'll have the deficit eliminated in 2017/18. I mean 18/19. I mean 19/20. Ah, sod it - we won't bring that under control either. Just blame Brexit. Hard Brexit, soft Brexit, quickie Brexit, slowie Brexit, Brexit means Brexit and there won't be a running commentary, except when we provide one for distractive purposes. Look - a squirrel!

Bottom line: we're not getting more cops, whatever evidence you can show that we need them.

Which is why the point about influencing attitudes is crucial; drink-driving has gone from commonplace to antisocial in a generation. We need the same to happen with many other driving ills, but this one is probably the most urgent; not actually looking being a particularly shit way to drive.

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DaveE128 | 7 years ago
3 likes

I wonder whether it would be effective to seize mobile phones from people using them while driving? They seem to be more worried about their communications than about driving so maybe this hits them where it hurts most? Many people find the thought of being without their phone more anxiety inducing than even being without their giant pram!  3

Avatar
WillRod | 7 years ago
4 likes

We need 6 points for all dangerous offences as a minimum, and a full-stop at 12 points. Nobody should be excused after 12 points at all, even if their wife is disabled or they are a self-employed builder, make it 3 years minimum ban, and if banned a second time, make it a permanent ban.

3 years inconvenience because you got 12 points is nothing compared to being paralysed from the neck down by a dangerous driver. As for drink drivers, I know of 3 who were banned where I last worked, within a few months of each other and none of them were bothered, none of them felt bad about drink driving and none thought of the potential consequences.

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The goat | 7 years ago
2 likes

The purpose of any sentence is to punish the offender and to discourage others.  The use of a phone whilst driving (which is known to be as damaging to driving performance as drink/drugs) is acceptable social behaviour and it needs to become unacceptable.  In my opinion we need a meaningful penalty which is applied routinely.  Points and a driving ban worked for drink driving and should be applied for phone use - no excuses, no exceptions.  It may mean a change of life for the offender but its better than killing  victims.

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ktache | 7 years ago
0 likes

yeah, but those groin-starers are truely scarey!

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Guanajuato | 7 years ago
4 likes

We do need to get away from the focus on hand-held phone use though.  Hands free is just as distracting and dangerous. Its just harder to police.

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OldRidgeback replied to Guanajuato | 7 years ago
1 like
Guanajuato wrote:

We do need to get away from the focus on hand-held phone use though.  Hands free is just as distracting and dangerous. Its just harder to police.

 

The Netherlands Government is considering making phone blocking technology compulsory in all new cars.

Avatar
burtthebike | 7 years ago
7 likes

Great that a driving and a cycling organisation are working together to make our roads safer for everyone.  Congratulations to all concerned and long may it last.

It is clearly ridiculous that so many drivers can accumulate 12 points and not be banned.  They have proven beyond doubt that they are incapable of driving safely, and whatever justification has been used to retain their licence is not enough to allow such dangerous people on the road.

As for mobile driving or texting, there must be an immediate loss of licence for a minimum of a year, with steeply increasing penalties for repeat offenders.  The current proposal to double the penalties without a ban are pathetic and useless, just a sop to road safety campaigners.

Avatar
kil0ran replied to burtthebike | 7 years ago
0 likes
burtthebike wrote:

As for mobile driving or texting, there must be an immediate loss of licence for a minimum of a year, with steeply increasing penalties for repeat offenders.  The current proposal to double the penalties without a ban are pathetic and useless, just a sop to road safety campaigners.

I agree, however 6 points will be an instant ban and retest for anyone on a P plate, and you would think that a decent proportion of mobile phone users will be newly-qualified. 

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