Stronger penalties needed for texting drivers, says Institute of Advanced Motorists

Charity’s analysis finds low average jail term and short driving ban for causing death by dangerous driving

by Sarah Barth   September 22, 2013  

Justice (Lonpicman, Wikimedia Commons)

 

Longer and more consistent sentencing is needed as a deterrent for drivers who are tempted to text while at the wheel, a road safety charity has urged.

An Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) analysis of eleven recent prosecutions involving mobile and smartphone use while driving found that the average sentence for causing death by dangerous driving is four-and-a-half years in prison and a disqualification from driving for seven years.

Just this month we highlighted the case of Hope Fennell, who was hit by an 18-tonne truck driven by Darren Foster as she rode her bike across a pedestrian crossing on Kings Heath High Street on November 7 2011.

Foster had been exchanging text messages with his girlfriend while driving round the city and failed to see Hope as she rode out into the road.
As the girl lay dying under his vehicle, Foster attempted to delete the messages in an attempt to cover up.

He was sentenced to two months in jail for the driving offence and four months for perverting the course of justice.

Since 2006, 750,000 fixed penalties have been issued to drivers for using phones while driving.

It’s a problem that’s on the rise, according to research we reported on earlier this year.

More than twice as many drivers now admit illegally texting at the wheel compared to this time last year according to a new survey from Halfords, accompanied by a fourfold increase in those who use their handsets to check social networking sites.

A Onepoll online survey of 2,083 drivers conducted on behalf of the retailer found that while almost nine in ten respondents said that using a handheld mobile while driving created a danger to the motorist and other road users, many were themselves guilty of that behaviour.

And in the United States, new research shows that texting while driving has now overtaken drinking and driving as the primary cause of death among teens in the country, claiming 3,000 lives a year, compared to 2,700 who are killed as a result of driving while under the influence of alcohol.

IAM chief executive Simon Best said: “The maximum sentence available to the courts is fourteen years, so there is still scope for an even stronger road safety message that drivers who kill whilst distracted on their phones will be caught and jailed for a long time.

“The lesson here is obvious: never use your phone while driving. Whether you have a hands free kit or use loudspeaker, it doesn’t matter. Using your phone in any capacity reduces your attention from the task at hand – driving.”

His comments do not however chime with a study we reported on last month, where a study by Carnegie Mellon University and the London School of Economics found that driving while talking on a mobile phone does not increase the risk of a collision.

Researchers analysed eight million crashes in the USA over a three year period from 2002 to 2005 and found no link between conversations being had on mobile phones and collisions - but the results did not include texting and using mobile internet, which have increased enormously in popularity in the following years.

15 user comments

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If you pass a queue of cars at traffic lights on the right hand side, it's suprising how many are on smart-phones (or listening to mp3s via headphones because the car has no mp3 player - but I know drivers aren't the only ones there)
I guess that's ok while in stationary traffic, but I'm not convinced they get left alone when driving - you see a few head-down, glance up, head-down drivers around and it's worrying. But like many traffic offences, enforcement is difficult or just not prioritised and the dis-incentives are weak compared to the expectations of anything actually going wrong, or being caught.

posted by james-o [213 posts]
22nd September 2013 - 10:58

3 Likes

An Immediate ban and vehicle seizure should be the minimum penalty for being caught whilst using.

Nothing less + jail terms for dangerous driving after any incident.

posted by gazza_d [273 posts]
22nd September 2013 - 11:26

3 Likes

See people looking at their lap all the time texting away. At lights in the rest view mirror it's 50% of the time.

Other things seem a little grey. It's an offence to use a phone but it's seems to be a grey area if you are tapping on a Sat Nav whilst moving. You can drink and eat and fiddle with the radio too.

I have a hands free. Talking, listening and driving altogether do not seem more dangerous to me. I use my eyes to drive with not my mouth and ears and I'm perfectly capable of controlling a car whilst talking to someone. - whether they're over the speaker or in the car with me. Two kids screaming in the back is harder but I can't see them being banned. Which is a shame. Smile

Silly me. You're probably right....

MercuryOne's picture

posted by MercuryOne [1093 posts]
22nd September 2013 - 12:34

2 Likes

See it all the time on my commutes. Drivers glancing down into their laps, it's a dead giveaway that they're reading/writing a text. Saw a guy sitting there in what had been a queue of traffic, he was so busy texting that he'd failed to notice the lights had changed and everyone in front of him had driven off. Everyone behind hooting. Tit.

Even saw a guy reading a book the other day. A book, not a road map. And I've seen drivers using tablets too, propped up on the bottom of the steering wheel.

But of course, everyone knows that it's actually those bloody cyclists causing all the problems, if only they paid road tax. Wink

posted by crazy-legs [568 posts]
22nd September 2013 - 13:16

3 Likes

"average sentence for causing death by dangerous driving is four-and-a-half years in prison and a disqualification from driving for seven years"

Certainly NOT if you kill a cyclist...

I don't follow trends. Trends follow me.

posted by BBB [188 posts]
22nd September 2013 - 13:48

4 Likes

james-o wrote:
If you pass a queue of cars at traffic lights on the right hand side, it's suprising how many are on smart-phones

When passing on the left hand side of a queue of traffic I always look through cars to see the 'glow' of a phone reflecting in the windscreen.

It's like an early warning system for when they over compensate and pull in to the left.

posted by farrell [1580 posts]
22nd September 2013 - 14:01

3 Likes

Considering the number of idiots behind the wheel (isn't it the majority of the population, already?) maybe it's time for compulsory dashboard cams and some sort of black boxes in every car?

I don't follow trends. Trends follow me.

posted by BBB [188 posts]
22nd September 2013 - 21:27

2 Likes

Talk about stating the obvious,

Motorists have to be made aware that anything less than perfect is not acceptable. Yes people are people and will make mistakes, but that is not an excuse and is not acceptable.

If you choose to drive then you must accept the rules that apply, no speeding, no illegal parking, no dangerous manouvres. If you choose to ignore the law then you should forfeit your licence.

Every driver knows that you have 12 points available, so why are drivers allowed to claim hardship? If you gain 12 points then tough, you knew the rules when you passed your test.

mrmo's picture

posted by mrmo [1365 posts]
23rd September 2013 - 8:06

3 Likes

Unfortunately you're wrong. Talking on a hands-free is pretty much as dangerous as holding your phone to your ear. Try and do some task that requires complicated hand-eye coordination and concentration whilst maintaining a conversation, and you'll see that it's a big discraction.

posted by Bikebikebike [97 posts]
23rd September 2013 - 9:40

3 Likes

Reply to MercuryOne, BTW.

posted by Bikebikebike [97 posts]
23rd September 2013 - 9:41

5 Likes

Seems to me like every other driver is using their phone in some way. I see it constantly, whether I'm driving or cycling. As per usual there is little enforcement and this is where the real problem lies.

posted by Matt eaton [498 posts]
23rd September 2013 - 10:32

3 Likes

I don't see what all the fuss is about. Mobiles are just another excuse for lefties, environmentalists and the "road safety" gestapo to heap more misery on hard pressed drivers. There is no concrete evidence that using a mobile while driving is dangerous at all. Sweden doesn't have a ban and they don't have any "road safety" problems. How long before the "road safety" taliban ban drivers from blinking.. How long?

posted by Rational Dave [4 posts]
23rd September 2013 - 10:49

3 Likes

don't feed the troll.

PJ McNally's picture

posted by PJ McNally [591 posts]
23rd September 2013 - 10:52

2 Likes

Rational Dave wrote:
I don't see what all the fuss is about. Mobiles are just another excuse for lefties, environmentalists and the "road safety" gestapo to heap more misery on hard pressed drivers. There is no concrete evidence that using a mobile while driving is dangerous at all. Sweden doesn't have a ban and they don't have any "road safety" problems. How long before the "road safety" taliban ban drivers from blinking.. How long?

Come on fella, what's your real username?

posted by farrell [1580 posts]
23rd September 2013 - 11:40

2 Likes

MercuryOne wrote:

I have a hands free. Talking, listening and driving altogether do not seem more dangerous to me. I use my eyes to drive with not my mouth and ears and I'm perfectly capable of controlling a car whilst talking to someone.

you should certainly use your ears for driving too....

Feel the fear and do it anyway

hood's picture

posted by hood [117 posts]
23rd September 2013 - 12:01

3 Likes