Support road.cc

Like this site? Help us to make it better.

Government to consider doubling penalty points for drivers caught on phone

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.

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.

Add new comment

60 comments

Avatar
drfabulous0 | 10 years ago
0 likes

I really don't think that fines and enforcement are the most practical way to deal with this, better to use technology. It's realistic with current technology for the car to be able to disable the use of the phone from the driver's seat, but better still driverless cars aren't too far away, then everyone can safely tweet away as they sit in traffic in their can.

Avatar
Matt eaton replied to drfabulous0 | 9 years ago
0 likes
drfabulous0 wrote:

I really don't think that fines and enforcement are the most practical way to deal with this, better to use technology. It's realistic with current technology for the car to be able to disable the use of the phone from the driver's seat, but better still driverless cars aren't too far away, then everyone can safely tweet away as they sit in traffic in their can.

I'm not so sure that we have the technology available to block the use of mobile devices in such a small and specific area as the driver's seat of a car. Even if this were possible it wouldn't stop people from dealing with email etc. whilst driving as any email that they draft would simply be sent as soon as they got out of the car or even when they put the phone on the passenger seat.

True driverless technology also has a long way to go. I can imagine cars with this technology apearing on our roads before long however I think it will be more like an auto-pilot function added to ordinary cars. This is certainly no bad thing but from an enforcement point-of-view how would it be possible to tell if the car was driving itself? Until we have cars that literally have no conventional driver controls the law won't be able to change and the person sitting behind the steering wheel will always be considered the driver.

I agree that a technological solution would be the ideal but I don't think that signal blockers or driverless cars are going to provide this.

Avatar
Jimmy Ray Will | 10 years ago
0 likes

I disagree... £30 is annoying even if it isn't going to break many peoples bank balance... more to the point, 3 points on the licence costs a fair bit more than £30.

The reality is, if you want to stop it, make sure more people get caught... or as you say, just make it completely socially unacceptable.

People still dope, even though they have witnessed what happened to Armstrong in the end... 'it won't happen to me' applies to why people think they won't get caught, just as much as they think they won't cause an accident on their mobile.

Funnily enough, I don't use handsfree as I don't want to use the phone in the car... I have taken the odd call however, late at night on a motorway when I was posing a danger to no one but myself. I dunno, didn't seem that dangerous to me, although I'd be loathed to do so in an urban area, on busy roads or in bad conditions...

Avatar
hampstead_bandit | 10 years ago
0 likes

Really easy for government to makes these announcements, much harder to enforce new laws and even harder to change driver's attitudes.

If you ride regularly in large cities you will see every day numerous instances of vehicle users whether private, public, goods vehicles and even emergency services driving in heavy traffic using hand held cell phones.

It's not hard to spot this on a bike because you sit higher relative to many motor vehicles, can easily see a handheld device in a driver's hand, and its often the asshole that has just missed you or another road user with inches to spare.

Cannot expect police to do much because they either don't have 'resources' or when they get tasked to watch junctions (I.e. London the last few weeks) they'd rather chat to each other than do any real work and nick people on phones, jumping lights, stopping in ASL....

Avatar
Matt eaton | 10 years ago
0 likes

I don't think it's a case of 'managing' without the phone but it's become an expectation that people are contactable. It's particuarally relevant in my example of the self-employed builder where missing a call could resulting in them losing out on business/work.

In other lines of work it's often an unwritten expectation for staff to be contactable on the phone whilst travelling. I fear that many people also attend to emails etc. whilst driving and that this is becoming more widely accecpted/expected. In high-presure jobs where time is valuable it's easy to see why people use technolgy to be productive whilst driving. It's no justification but I can understand the motivation.

Avatar
FluffyKittenofT... replied to Matt eaton | 10 years ago
0 likes
Matt eaton wrote:

I don't think it's a case of 'managing' without the phone but it's become an expectation that people are contactable. It's particuarally relevant in my example of the self-employed builder where missing a call could resulting in them losing out on business/work.

In other lines of work it's often an unwritten expectation for staff to be contactable on the phone whilst travelling. I fear that many people also attend to emails etc. whilst driving and that this is becoming more widely accecpted/expected. In high-presure jobs where time is valuable it's easy to see why people use technolgy to be productive whilst driving. It's no justification but I can understand the motivation.

As with cars themselves, no sooner is something invented than it rapidly becomes compulsory. Furthermore, any rule-bending that can be gotten away with will also become compulsory because if you don't do it those you compete with will.

Invention is the mother of necessity.

Avatar
workhard replied to Matt eaton | 10 years ago
0 likes
Matt eaton wrote:

I don't think it's a case of 'managing' without the phone but it's become an expectation that people are contactable. It's particuarally relevant in my example of the self-employed builder where missing a call could resulting in them losing out on business/work.

Having been trying to corral various self-employed tradespeople I can assure you most of 'em hereabouts ain't hangin' on the telephone waiting for your call.

Quote:

In other lines of work it's often an unwritten expectation for staff to be contactable on the phone whilst travelling. I fear that many people also attend to emails etc. whilst driving and that this is becoming more widely accecpted/expected. In high-presure jobs where time is valuable it's easy to see why people use technolgy to be productive whilst driving. It's no justification but I can understand the motivation.

Can't they just turn their phone off when driving and tell their boss they are doing so? Boss has a duty of care, and expecting folk to deal with calls and email whilst driving is failing in it.

Avatar
Matt eaton replied to workhard | 10 years ago
0 likes

"Having been trying to corral various self-employed tradespeople I can assure you most of 'em hereabouts ain't hangin' on the telephone waiting for your call."

In that case I'm being way too sympathetic to the multiple van drivers I see talking on handheld phones every day.

"Can't they just turn their phone off when driving and tell their boss they are doing so? Boss has a duty of care, and expecting folk to deal with calls and email whilst driving is failing in it."

Of course people CAN turn their phones off and tell their boss/colleages etc. that they are unavailable but people's behaviours are driven by the culture in which they work/live. As I said before any expectation is an unspoken one and many people will be tempted to break the rules if it means that they will get ahead in the workplace. This is no justification but it does explain behaviours that we all witness every day. Unless enforcement is stepped up it's not going to change.

Avatar
glynr36 replied to workhard | 10 years ago
0 likes
workhard wrote:

Can't they just turn their phone off when driving and tell their boss they are doing so? Boss has a duty of care, and expecting folk to deal with calls and email whilst driving is failing in it.

I don't think the expectation is to break the current laws, and most employers who require people to drive stick people on company training of some form (usually just a computer based thing).
The reality is people think they can multitask in the time in the car, and otherwise see it was 'wasted time', saving time when they get back to the office or other location.
The expectation of an employer might be to do your work as the business needs, and on time etc. It's the induvidual employee who makes the choice to break the law.

Avatar
brooksby | 10 years ago
0 likes
Quote:

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

Which is a bit of a joke, when I think we would all wager that some drivers out there commit the offence more than twice in a DAY.

Avatar
Simmo72 | 10 years ago
0 likes

What is the definitions of using a mobile phone?

For instance could you be prosecuted under this proposed change for using a media app to change tracks played through your car stereo? Why is this different to changing tracks or stations on the stereo itself?

Or if you used the sat nav app, why would this be different from using a dedicated gps device. All of these require you to take your eyes off the main focus - staying on the road and not killing anyone.

In both cases using the mobile could actually be safer than using the device as you can position where you want, not in the middle of the car below windscreen level.

The law should be about careless driving, regardless of the cause

Avatar
Matt eaton replied to Simmo72 | 10 years ago
0 likes
Simmo72 wrote:

What is the definitions of using a mobile phone?

For instance could you be prosecuted under this proposed change for using a media app to change tracks played through your car stereo? Why is this different to changing tracks or stations on the stereo itself?

Or if you used the sat nav app, why would this be different from using a dedicated gps device. All of these require you to take your eyes off the main focus - staying on the road and not killing anyone.

In both cases using the mobile could actually be safer than using the device as you can position where you want, not in the middle of the car below windscreen level.

The law should be about careless driving, regardless of the cause

I think that the law specifically says that you cannot use a handheld mobile phone whilst driving. If your phone is in a cradle you would be able to do the things you desribe legally. As you point out it's no different to using an integrated sound system or sat-nav. As long as you are not holding the phone it's OK.

Worryingly I think that this also means that sending email/tweets/facebook updates is acceptable as long as your phone is cradled (and you don't crash the car etc.)

Avatar
Bob's Bikes replied to Simmo72 | 10 years ago
0 likes
Simmo72 wrote:

What is the definitions of using a mobile phone?

If you used the sat nav app, why would this be different from using a dedicated gps device. All of these require you to take your eyes off the main focus - staying on the road and not killing anyone.

In both cases using the mobile could actually be safer than using the device as you can position where you want, not in the middle of the car below windscreen level.

The law should be about careless driving, regardless of the cause

I agree with you the law should etc, but disagree with you Re sat navs as far as I am concerned sat nav screens should go blank as soon as the vehicle moves and voice commands/prompts used, if you wish to change destination pull over and park (there was a very tragic (and avoidable) fatality on the Twyford by-pass due to someone fiddling with the sat-nav instead of looking where they were going)

but as others have said enforcement will be needed otherwise it's meaningless.

Avatar
Simmo72 replied to Bob's Bikes | 10 years ago
0 likes

It wasn't my opinion or view, I was just stating the scenario. I'm in total agreement with you, sat navs are distracting, as are all the built in media touch screen toys in modern cars, far too much there to take your eye of the road whilst you attempt to stop your air conditioning and automated voice calls that have somehow switched to spanish.

Avatar
Matt eaton replied to Simmo72 | 10 years ago
0 likes
Simmo72 wrote:

It wasn't my opinion or view, I was just stating the scenario. I'm in total agreement with you, sat navs are distracting, as are all the built in media touch screen toys in modern cars, far too much there to take your eye of the road whilst you attempt to stop your air conditioning and automated voice calls that have somehow switched to spanish.

All the technology is a bit of a double-edged sword. It can be distacting but following Sat-Nav has got to be better than fumbling with a map on the passenger seat and turning the air-con up a notch has got to be better than trying to take off a coat or jumper whilst driving.

The thing that still gets me is smoking at the wheel. Holding onto a burning piece of plant material while piloting a car seems mad to me. The actual act of lighting up seems particuarally distracting.

Avatar
Simmo72 replied to Bob's Bikes | 10 years ago
0 likes

It wasn't my opinion or view, I was just stating the scenario. I'm in total agreement with you, sat navs are distracting, as are all the built in media touch screen toys in modern cars, far too much there to take your eye of the road whilst you attempt to stop your air conditioning and automated voice calls that have somehow switched to spanish.

Avatar
Luminosity replied to Simmo72 | 10 years ago
0 likes
Simmo72 wrote:

What is the definitions of using a mobile phone?

For instance could you be prosecuted under this proposed change for using a media app to change tracks played through your car stereo? Why is this different to changing tracks or stations on the stereo itself?

Or if you used the sat nav app, why would this be different from using a dedicated gps device. All of these require you to take your eyes off the main focus - staying on the road and not killing anyone.

In both cases using the mobile could actually be safer than using the device as you can position where you want, not in the middle of the car below windscreen level.

The law should be about careless driving, regardless of the cause

Exactly. Well put.

Avatar
Simmo72 | 10 years ago
0 likes

CCTV cameras....could they assist in catching people?

You could ask the public to photo people but the irony would be the bulk would be taken whilst driving....actually sounds like a well planned government policy.

hard hitting tv adverts - how did we manage to get everyone -apart from dean gafney and a few other tits - to wear seatbelts?

Severe, VERY severe penalties

Avatar
Jimmy Ray Will | 10 years ago
0 likes

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?

Avatar
OldRidgeback replied to Jimmy Ray Will | 10 years ago
0 likes
Jimmy Ray Will wrote:

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?

So someone's livelihood is worth more than someone else's life?

Avatar
brooksby replied to OldRidgeback | 10 years ago
0 likes
OldRidgeback wrote:

So someone's livelihood is worth more than someone else's life?

To be honest, if you look at the number of cases where the "exceptional circumstances" card has been played, I'm afraid the answer to that is a resounding YES.

Avatar
Matt eaton replied to Jimmy Ray Will | 10 years ago
0 likes
Jimmy Ray Will wrote:

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?

I've got to counter-diagree with you. If somebody drives for work and has to be contactable all the time (a self-employed builder is the perfect example) then it's not out of the realms of reasonable expectation that they would heve a hands-free car kit installed. I would consider this as essential as a set of safety boots to someone in this line of work but van drivers seem to be one of the biggest culprits of handheld mobile use in my experience.

I do agree with you point about enforecement. Catching a very small percentage of offenders but dishing out massive punishments certainly is not just.

Avatar
Beatnik69 replied to Matt eaton | 10 years ago
0 likes
Matt eaton wrote:
Jimmy Ray Will wrote:

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?

I've got to counter-diagree with you. If somebody drives for work and has to be contactable all the time (a self-employed builder is the perfect example) then it's not out of the realms of reasonable expectation that they would heve a hands-free car kit installed. I would consider this as essential as a set of safety boots to someone in this line of work but van drivers seem to be one of the biggest culprits of handheld mobile use in my experience.

I do agree with you point about enforecement. Catching a very small percentage of offenders but dishing out massive punishments certainly is not just.

How on earth did people manage in the days before mobile phones then? Employers shouldn't put staff in a position where they may have an accident due to mobile phone use. As far as I know my employer forbids the use of a mobile phone when driving.

Avatar
oldstrath replied to Jimmy Ray Will | 10 years ago
0 likes
Jimmy Ray Will wrote:

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?

Personally I'd be perfectly happy to say people's livelihoods taken away if they break the law. If your car, van, HGV, main battle tank is that important to your job, don't break the law. It's not exactly hard.

Avatar
BikeBud replied to Jimmy Ray Will | 10 years ago
0 likes
Jimmy Ray Will wrote:

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?

Yes - juries & the judiciary can all see that it could be them someday. This is why it needs to be made as unacceptable as drink driving.

£30 is NOTHING these days.

If you were one person caught out in 100... You still broke the law knowingly, and you still put others lives in danger. Tough! The only thing I'd add to this is to ensure that more than 1% are caught!!!

Word of mouth is incredibly powerful. So imagine a friend of yours gets caught using a mobile phone whilst driving, gets banned etc. It might make you think twice about doing it.

Avatar
gazza_d | 10 years ago
0 likes

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.

Avatar
richiewormiling replied to gazza_d | 9 years ago
0 likes

i totally agree with you. Good sense. I would gladly accept it if i did it, i'm sure many would.

Avatar
Jimmy Ray Will | 10 years ago
0 likes

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.

Avatar
jacknorell replied to Jimmy Ray Will | 10 years ago
0 likes
Jimmy Ray Will wrote:

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.

I suspect that it's also that former group which is more likely to be on the phone, iPad, eating a bowl of cereal...

Avatar
jacknorell | 10 years ago
0 likes

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.

Pages

Latest Comments