In March 2017 the law was altered so that motorists found using their mobile while driving would receive six points on their licence and a £200 fine. Anyone caught using their phone twice behind the wheel receives 12 points, will be disqualified from driving and will be fined for up to £1,000. Offenders who refuse to pay the fine issued for using a mobile device while driving could be prosecuted, disqualified from driving and fined up to £1,000.
This driving penalty was made more extreme because of ever increasing numbers of mobile related accidents. RAC Report on Motoring revealed a significant increase in the number of drivers who admitted to using a mobile phone at the wheel. According to the report, between 2014 and 2016 this figure has risen from 8% to 31%.
14% of drivers admitted to taking photos when behind the wheel, while 20% said they checked social media. There has also been an attitudinal change towards mobile phone use when driving – 14% of people believed it was acceptable to take a call, up from 7% in 2014. Police also believe these figures could be an underestimate, since the phones are only seized in an accident that results in a fatal or life changing injury.
The stricter stance was intended to cut down on usage and make drivers rethink their opinions and the consequences of their actions. Surrey and Sussex Police have issued this message, as the forces prepare to crackdown on offenders who risk lives on the road through mobile use. From Monday (22 January) to Sunday (28 January), a team of officers will be on patrol to catch those who use their handheld devices to text, call or surf the web while driving.
New drivers who have passed their test in the last two years will have their licences revoked if they are caught using their mobiles – they can pay for a new provisional licence and successfully take their theory and practical tests again if they want to get their license back. All motorists are encouraged to take note as this offence remains one of the main causes of collisions causing fatalities and serious injury.
Superintendent Chris Moon, head of the Surrey and Sussex Roads Policing Unit, said: “It’s concerning that despite our repeated messaging around road safety, there are still a number of motorists who continue to use their phone while driving.
“It goes without saying that anyone driving a vehicle should give their full attention to the road, not just for their own safety but for others’ too. By using a handheld device at the wheel, you are taking your attention away from the road, which can severely affect your judgement, your reaction times and your awareness of what’s around you.
“A serious or even fatal collision at 60-70mph could be caused by a minor lapse in concentration. Throw a mobile phone into the mix, and you reduce your level of concentration even further.”
If officers can prove you are driving dangerously while using your phone, you could be disqualified and jailed for up to two years.
Supt Moon added: “The new legislation which came into effect last year means you only need to be caught on your phone twice to receive 12 points on your licence, which can result in a driving ban.
“In simple terms, no text or call is worth paying £200 for. Nor is it worth potentially losing your life.”
The initiative is also supported by Sussex Safer Roads Partnership and Drive SMART Surrey, organisations which aim to reduce road casualties and tackle antisocial driving through education and enforcement.
You can report someone using their mobile phone behind the wheel at the Operation Crackdown website.
Full details on the consequences of using mobile devices while driving can be found on the gov.uk website.