Tougher penalties for illegally using a handheld mobile phone while driving failed to discourage drivers across Great Britain from doing just that on the day they were introduced - with a journalist on her way to cover a police operation among those caught and fined.
From Wednesday 1 March, the fine for using a handheld device while in control of a motor vehicle has doubled to £200, and offenders will also have their driving licence endorsed with six penalty points.
The new penalties were the subject of extensive media coverage ahead of their implementation, which has also been accompanied by a week-long nationwide crackdown by police forces.
But in Dorset alone, more than 40 drivers were caught breaking the law in just six hours on Wednesday morning.
On the same day, Thames Valley Police invited national and local press to an operation it was running on Ock Street in Abingdon which saw plain clothes officers radio ahead to uniformed colleagues whenever they spotted a driver using a handheld mobile device.
According to a tweet from Dominic Reynolds of ITN 5 News, one of the 17 motorists intercepted was a reporter who was in her car on the way to cover the operation.
Breaking Irony News: a journalist driving here to cover phone/driving crackdown has just been busted: £200, 6pts. pic.twitter.com/8d0GiyjOp0
— Dominic Reynolds (@domreynolds) 1 March 2017
The new penalties also mean that motorists who have held a full driving licence for less than two years risk having their driving licence revoked, which happens when they accrue six or more penalty points.
As a result, one 19-year-old who was caught in the Abingdon operation now faces the prospect of having to reapply for a provisional licence and retake his theory and practical driving tests in order to secure a full licence again.
Metro reports him as being “pissed off” after he was stopped by police, adding that his parents would “kill me” once they discovered what had happened.
He added: “All I was doing was trying to find a garage to change my tyre.”
Another driver snared in the same operation said: ‘It was my stupid fault."
With no apparent sense of irony, he added: “I think the new rules are fair – it’s going to stop people.”
Road safety campaigners have long maintained that using a handheld mobile phone while driving, whether for a voice call, to send a text or check social media, is as dangerous - if not more so - than driving under the influence of drink or drugs, but does not carry the same stigma.
RAC road safety spokesman Pete Williams said of the new penalties: “The use of handheld mobile phones is at epidemic proportions and sadly the attitudes of many drivers have relaxed towards this illegal and dangerous activity.
“The new tougher penalties will therefore be welcomed by law-abiding motorists as a better deterrent.”
Simon has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.