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Move could see drivers banned after two offences - but police urged to step up enforcement too

The government is considering doubling the number of penalty points motorists receive when they are caught using a handheld mobile phone at the wheel, following a recommendation from the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police.

Under the proposal put forward by Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, drivers committing the offence would receive six penalty points, meaning that anyone caught on two occasions in a three-year period would lose their licence, reports The Guardian.

Secretary of State for Transport Patrick McLoughlin said he was taking the suggestion seriously since the "amounts of casualties there have been are absolutely appalling".

He continued: "The person using their phone doesn't realise the damage or the danger they can be in. It ends up ruining different people's lives – those who are driving as well as those who are injured.

"It is one that I want to look at. There could be some difficulties about it but I think we've got to get that message across to people about safety.

"We have been very lucky in this country in seeing, year on year, the number of road deaths and casualties actually falling. But one death is one too many and we need to look at those and see where we are going."

AA President Edmund King agreed that stricter penalties were needed, but added that greater enforcement of the law was also necessary.

"The current deterrent just isn't working,” he said. “Many drivers seem addicted to their phones and just can't resist looking at a text or tweet at the wheel," he said.

"We need a concerted effort to crack this addiction with harsher penalties linked to an information and enforcement campaign. Ultimately it will take more cops in cars to get motorists to hang up behind the wheel."

Professor Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation, said mobile phone use could be more dangerous than driving while under the influence of drink or drugs, and also called on police to step up enforcement.

He said: "Our own research shows how dangerous using a mobile at the wheel can be.

"Texting while driving impairs reactions more than being at the drink-drive limit or high on cannabis.

"However the large number of motorists still using phones at the wheel is less about the size of penalties and more about the chance of being caught.

"The Department for Transport's own figures show that on two previous occasions when this law was tightened and fines increased the number of people offending initially dropped but then rapidly rose again.

"The conclusion must be that drivers simply don't think they are going to be caught," he added.

Launching a campaign last November urging motorists not to use handheld devices such as smartphones at the wheel, the road safety charity, Brake, said that 575,000 drivers had received penalty points for illegal use of a mobile phone or being distracted in some other way.

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.

60 comments

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Peowpeowpeowlasers [293 posts] 1 year ago
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It'll all be for nothing without dedicated traffic police. And by dedicated I mean patrolling only the roads and not being sidelined by picking up drunks at chucking out time.

Also, how about lifetime driving bans for serious offences?

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stumps [3184 posts] 1 year ago
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We dont have enough cops to go round, this govt has cut, cut and cut again so that we cant afford anymore cops. My force is having to save over £50m, could you imagine how many cops that could provide.

Automatic 6 month ban for using the phone is the only answer not doubling the points.

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SteppenHerring [322 posts] 1 year ago
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Back on what stumps said: scientific studies have shown that using a handheld phone is worse that being well over the drink-drive limit. Even using a hands-free device is about the same as being at twice the limit. Ban the bastards.

But yes, enforcement is the issue. The police don't have the resources. How is it done?

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bikebot [1634 posts] 1 year ago
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"Ultimately it will take more cops in cars to get motorists to hang up behind the wheel."

Try putting a few more on bikes (either kind), where they can look down on the driver. On average, I can catch three drivers fiddling with phones in their lap before I've made it to the end of the road!

I had a great incident yesterday. One driver slowly approaching a pedestrian crossing on green (crawling traffic). Light changed to red, pedestrians started crossing, and the car carried on and was about a foot away from driving over people when he suddenly looked up. Yep, texting away and oblivious to the world around him.

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OldRidgeback [2554 posts] 1 year ago
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There has been a lot of research into the risks of using cellphones while driving. This is considered more risky than being just over the limit for alcohol, so the penalties should be at least comparable. Being over the limit for alcohol will get you 12 points and a 12 month ban automatically (unless you can plead hardship). The same should hold true for cellphone use. Sending texts or doing email is far more dangerous and there is also considerable research into this. Given the risks, I'd say an automatic 24 month ban and compulsory retest would be about appropriate.

Oh and I'd ban hands free kits too since research shows they make no difference whatsoever. The risks are from the limitations of the human brain, which cannot perform complex tasks like driving and carrying out in depth conversation at the same time, despite what some people seem to think about multi tasking. We are limited by evolution.

The problem is that people don't take cellphone use while at the wheel seriously and don't see it for the risk it is. Much tougher penalties would help, just as they did for drink driving 30 years ago. It's because of the drink driving laws enforced 30 years ago that the roads are so much safer today.

Enforcement though is another matter and as Stumps says, there aren't enough cops. I don't know the answer to that. Perhaps if people begin to realise how cellphone use at the wheel is as much an example of anti social behaviour as drink driving, then attitudes will change and people will modify their own behaviour and even report offenders, perhaps not.

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Beaufort [270 posts] 1 year ago
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Luca Paolini bang to rights

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graham_f [166 posts] 1 year ago
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I think something also needs to be done about the car manufacturers, in collusion with Google / Apple building in ever tighter integration between the driver's mobile and the on-board systems. From what I've seen (as a non-car owner, who fairly regularly hires cars) a lot of new cars have systems that will connect by bluetooth, not just for calls (which is bad enough - as people have posted above, the research suggests hands-free doesn't make a great deal of difference) but also for reading and replying to texts, tweets, Facebook posts etc. It's no good trying to stop people doing something that the car manufacturers are making increasingly easy and everyday, and by building the technology into the cars, sending the message that there's no problem with doing.

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HarrogateSpa [275 posts] 1 year ago
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The quotes in the article are about right. I see lots of people using their phones and so looking away from the road, but I never expect them to be caught, or see anyone being pulled over for using a phone.

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mrmo [2016 posts] 1 year ago
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you could propose bringing back hanging, but no police and their really is no point. Drivers know they won't be caught so don't care. The only time you get caught is when you crash it seems. And then the courts and CPS don't care.

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Simon E [2541 posts] 1 year ago
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stumps wrote:

We dont have enough cops to go round, this govt has cut, cut and cut again so that we cant afford anymore cops. My force is having to save over £50m, could you imagine how many cops that could provide.

Automatic 6 month ban for using the phone is the only answer not doubling the points.

Everyone knows that harsher penalties won't work without enforcement but at least someone is talking about it.

For the cuts you can blame the millionaire muppets in Downing Street and all the selfish b*stards that voted for them.

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pdw [49 posts] 1 year ago
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Quote:

Everyone knows that harsher penalties won't work without enforcement but at least someone is talking about it.

Really? I suspect that if drivers were faced with a ban, even a relatively short one (say 30 days), then even with the minimal enforcement that we have today, many wouldn't take the risk.

I can't see why we need to give drivers a second chance on this one. It's not like speeding where it's possible that you might have missed a sign, or accidentally let your speed creep up. Using a phone whilst driving is a conscious and deliberate act.

Even with double penalties, most drivers will be able to "afford" (both in terms of fines and points) getting caught at least once, so will continue to take the risk.

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sim1515 [141 posts] 1 year ago
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OldRidgeback wrote:

Oh and I'd ban hands free kits too since research shows they make no difference whatsoever. The risks are from the limitations of the human brain, which cannot perform complex tasks like driving and carrying out in depth conversation at the same time, despite what some people seem to think about multi tasking. We are limited by evolution.

Some research also shows that talking on hands free is very similar to talking to someone in the car, should we ban that too?

I think the police have enough to deal with enforcing phone use with hands, let's get that right first?

I do agree that until the public perceive it as on a par with drink driving, people will carry on. There was a very effective campaign showing the consequences of drink driving, maybe they should do a similar one for mobiles?

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Shades [285 posts] 1 year ago
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Despite all these 'crackdowns', it doesn't deter anyone as often see people holding phones; I guess they reckon the chances of being caught are prettly slim. If you can't enforce something effectively, then it's 'bad' law. I've got a Bluetooth headset in may car but I haven't used it for ages as I hated using my phone (hands free) when driving as it was, well, distracting!

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zanf [759 posts] 1 year ago
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It should be, as Old Ridgeback said, automatic 24 month ban if caught using a mobile. 24 month ban & vehicle(s) crushed for a second offence. If shown to be in a collision and using a mobile, automatic 24 month jail sentence.

Of course, it (the penalties in the article, not the ones I've said) won't happen because it's a political party that likes to be seen to be all about law and other and are anything but.

There is also no will to do anything because although everyone knows it's bad, it's not considered an antisocial activity like drink driving, which itself, was socially acceptable until a sustained campaign turned that around.

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29erKeith [39 posts] 1 year ago
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Pointless!

It's a drop in the ocean the number of people who get caught and get points and fine now, going by the number of people I see every single day doing it.

I've tried challenging a few drivers here and there and only ever get excuses or an earful. I reported one to a police officer who was really helpful and did all the paperwork etc. but it seem to have died a death and the driver seems to have got away with it, as I must have been making it up  102

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mattsccm [324 posts] 1 year ago
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Agree with the enforcement issue but maybe just the threat will stop a few people.
Its still just passes the message on the government is scared of the public. Why not a ban? If it's a crime then why not something more than a slap?

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adamthekiwi [95 posts] 1 year ago
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I've said this before and I've no doubt I'll say it again...: the law as it stands is a pretty good protection for all road users. The problem is, and, as stumps suggests, likely to remain in the future, a lack of enforcement by the police and CPS.

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farrell [1950 posts] 1 year ago
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Make every case go through court.

Impound the phone as evidence until the case.

That'd give you a pretty good reduction.

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OldRidgeback [2554 posts] 1 year ago
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sim1515 wrote:
OldRidgeback wrote:

Oh and I'd ban hands free kits too since research shows they make no difference whatsoever. The risks are from the limitations of the human brain, which cannot perform complex tasks like driving and carrying out in depth conversation at the same time, despite what some people seem to think about multi tasking. We are limited by evolution.

Some research also shows that talking on hands free is very similar to talking to someone in the car, should we ban that too?

I think the police have enough to deal with enforcing phone use with hands, let's get that right first?

I do agree that until the public perceive it as on a par with drink driving, people will carry on. There was a very effective campaign showing the consequences of drink driving, maybe they should do a similar one for mobiles?

The research carried out by the TRL shows that the driver talking with other occupants in a car is not the same as when the driver is talking on the phone. There is similar research also saying the same. I've not heard anything saying otherwise and I do get a lot of this information at work.

Basically, when a driver is talking with someone sitting in the car, the driver will stop talking when something occurs in the driving scenario that requires additional brain processing power. This is not the case when the driver is talking on the phone and for various psychological reasons, which include visual clues and facial expressions that cannot be transmitted through a phone.

There is a lot of research saying hands free kits are no use. The TRL released a report saying so not so long ago and you can find that on the TRL website.

The problem with regard to phone use while driving is linked to the human brain's limitations in regard to how much it can process at any one time, rather like an old computer being tasked with a number of complex functions simultaneously and resulting in that rather annoying hourglass appearing and turning round and round and round and round for an undefined period.

Yes, there is a risk of inattention for drivers, say when children are fighting in the backseat, but that's another issue altogether and I somehow doubt the carrying of children in vehicles would be considered either logical or desirable.  1

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Joeinpoole [439 posts] 1 year ago
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Simon E wrote:

For the cuts you can blame the millionaire muppets in Downing Street and all the selfish b*stards that voted for them.

I think you'll find that the necessity for the cuts was due to the idiotic muppets prior to 2010 who wrecked the economy (just as they did the last time they had power in the 70's). I blame the foolish wankers who voted for *them*.

Staggeringly Labour even joked about the situation in writing the infamous "there's no money left" note.

http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2010/may/17/liam-byrne-note-successor

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BikeBud [200 posts] 1 year ago
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Great to see it being discussed. However, many of the other comments are valid - if there is little chance of getting caught it may not make any difference.

It also seems at odds with the judgements handed down in cases - a cyclist killed by a lorry, the lorry driver using his phone at the time, but no charges brought against the driver!

The risk of a ban might make people think twice... perhaps.

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Joeinpoole [439 posts] 1 year ago
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We also need a massive public-awareness campaign, just as they did with drink-driving for decades.

All I see nowadays are advertisements for cars that make messaging and the like *more* convenient.

I refer my honourable friends to the particularly vomit-inducing advert for the Ford Fiesta;

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ygVsACC-ngE&list=PL_AQadacLqzliLWn1hHDuQ...

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pdw [49 posts] 1 year ago
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Quote:

the law as it stands is a pretty good protection for all road users. The problem is, and, as stumps suggests, likely to remain in the future, a lack of enforcement by the police and CPS.

Really? As it stands you have to get caught using your phone 4 times in a 3 year period before you'd receive anything other than points and a small fine. Even with adequate enforcement, I'd say the law is far too lenient.

As I said above, the threat of a ban on the first offence might help focus people's minds, even in the absence of good enforcement.

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bikebot [1634 posts] 1 year ago
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I do quite like the idea of automatic mini-bans. Get your first 3 points, get banned for a week. 6 points, banned for a month. 12 points is treated as it is today (or will be after the penalties have been reviewed).

I think there should be a cost to committing a traffic offence that's serious enough to earn points, and a fine isn't enough for many people. I think even a short ban might be quite effective at reminding people that driving is a privilege and something that needs to be taken seriously.

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sim1515 [141 posts] 1 year ago
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OldRidgeback wrote:

The research carried out by the TRL shows that the driver talking with other occupants in a car is not the same as when the driver is talking on the phone. There is similar research also saying the same. I've not heard anything saying otherwise and I do get a lot of this information at work.

Basically, when a driver is talking with someone sitting in the car, the driver will stop talking when something occurs in the driving scenario that requires additional brain processing power. This is not the case when the driver is talking on the phone and for various psychological reasons, which include visual clues and facial expressions that cannot be transmitted through a phone.

There is a lot of research saying hands free kits are no use. The TRL released a report saying so not so long ago and you can find that on the TRL website.

The problem with regard to phone use while driving is linked to the human brain's limitations in regard to how much it can process at any one time, rather like an old computer being tasked with a number of complex functions simultaneously and resulting in that rather annoying hourglass appearing and turning round and round and round and round for an undefined period.

Yes, there is a risk of inattention for drivers, say when children are fighting in the backseat, but that's another issue altogether and I somehow doubt the carrying of children in vehicles would be considered either logical or desirable.  1

I believe that there is contrasting research which suggests no difference between hands free and passengers, the University of Michigan I think. I think I've had this discussion before so I'm not going to get into it again, you can just read it here: http://road.cc/content/news/70508-police-campaign-wales-sees-1000-driver...

My real point is that using hands free is illegal at the moment yet lots of people still do it, it's good that the government has recognised they need to do more to deter people but as others have said, enforcing it seems to be an issue. If enforcing that is an issue, how successful do you think it would be trying to enforce a ban on hands free? With the cuts that everyone is talking about, I think they should concentrate on what they can hope to achieve rather than introducing things which seem much harder to enforce.

I think harsher penalties could help if they are widely know and hopefully enforced but I think that changing the public perception to view it as on a par with drink driving would definitely help too.

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jacknorell [942 posts] 1 year ago
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Recently saw this article in the Boston Globe about mobile use and driving.

Basically, there's no hope unless as said above, we get much harsher penalties and a huge increase in traffic law enforcement.

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Jimmy Ray Will [439 posts] 1 year ago
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Hmm, I would contest that a hands free makes no difference, as I see the biggest challenge of mobile phone use as taking your eyes off the road (to write a text etc), or a hand off a wheel.

Yes, having a conversation with someone that is not in the car with you, could lead to them talking at time when you need to concentrate, and yes, you may not concentrate enough in those situations because of that... but that's small fry compared to taking your eyes off the road and hand off the steering wheel for prolonged periods.

I guess this comes down to the fact that some people will be at the raggity edge of their competencies just getting a car from A to B every day, whilst for others driving is something they could almost do in their sleep.

For the second group, having a conversation on a phone and being able to prioritise focus on the road is simple... for the former it is clearly a step too far.

As I see it, too few people see the problem with using mobile phones driving as that they might kill someone... or even if its not them, people using mobile phones whilst driving kill people... They are not focusing on the why's, instead looking at the punishment for getting caught, and then naturally, on their chances of being caught.

So instead of thinking about safety, they are thing about probability...

What I am saying in a long winded way is that unless effectively policed, the punishment can be whatever, it won't make a difference.

The answer is, like drink driving, to make mobile phone use in the car so socially unacceptable that only the die hards will continue to do it.

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700c [819 posts] 1 year ago
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pdw wrote:
Quote:

the law as it stands is a pretty good protection for all road users. The problem is, and, as stumps suggests, likely to remain in the future, a lack of enforcement by the police and CPS.

Really? As it stands you have to get caught using your phone 4 times in a 3 year period before you'd receive anything other than points and a small fine. Even with adequate enforcement, I'd say the law is far too lenient.

As I said above, the threat of a ban on the first offence might help focus people's minds, even in the absence of good enforcement.

The fine went up recently to £100

Would be interesting to see if this has made a difference -I guess not, so would agree with a further raising of the severity of punishment in principle

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gazza_d [451 posts] 1 year ago
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It needs to be an immediate ban for 12 months minimum when caught using a phone in the hand whilst driving + immediate siezure of the vehicle and phone as they do currently for no insurance (which proves it is possible).

Where the offender is driving & using phone whilst working in a company vehicle (truck/var/car), then the employer also needs to be stung with a fine of several thousand pounds.

It does need more enforcement - allow PCSOs and plod on bikes and foot to stop and nail people.

Also a campaign is needed to make driving with a phone in hand as socially unaccepable as driving with a can of lager in hand.

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Jimmy Ray Will [439 posts] 1 year ago
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Disagree... no one in the land will want to see someones livelihood potentially taken away, businesses crippled for the sake of using a mobile phone. Look at the current death by dangerous driving laws... it is rarely used as juries are too reluctant to convict... why? Because they can all see that it could be them someday.

Honestly, £30 fine is more than enough if people get caught enough. I am sure those clever cameras that are everywhere around us could be developed to identify when people are talking on phones... use something like that to catch the blighters and you'll have the problem sorted pronto.

As it stands, if you were the one person caught out in a 100, and you ended up with a ban and a several thousand pound fine, lost job etc... would you feel that justice had been done, or that you were hard done by?

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