New laws see hundreds of novice drivers banned for using mobiles

But the total number of offenders is stubbornly high

New tougher laws have seen hundreds of new drivers banned from the roads from using their mobile phones.

Since March, anyone using a phone at the wheel was given six points instead of the previous three - meaning that if they had been qualified for less than two years they would lost their licence.

Figures obtained by BBC Radio 5 live reveal 290 new UK drivers were disqualified in the first six months since the change.

Anyone affected by the ban must retake both the theory and practical driving tests to regain their licence.

RAC road safety spokesman Pete Williams said: "These people have spent hours and hours and hundreds of pounds learning to drive to gain their personal freedom only to throw it all away through this foolish behaviour.

"The only consolation is that they now won't be involved in some horrific crash caused by the distraction of a handheld mobile phone," he added.

A total of 15,752 drivers received six penalty points for using a mobile phone between March and August.

This is an increase from 15,237 drivers in the same period in 2016.

National Police Chiefs' Council lead for roads policing, Chief Constable Anthony Bangham, said: ”This is not a minor offence and is never a risk worth taking because a moment's distraction behind the wheel can change lives forever.

"Our message is simple - don't do it.”

Just a couple of months ago we reported how up to nine million drivers could still be habitually using their phones at the wheel, despite tougher penalties, according to the RAC.

In a survey of more than 1,700 people 26% who knew about increased penalties, which were introduced in March, admitted they still use their phone while driving. Extrapolated to the general population this, the RAC warns, could mean 9m people are still driving and using a handheld phone, knowing the risks.

Of the 89% aware of changes - the equivalent of 5.7m drivers - 16% said they no longer phone and drive since the law change, while a further 11% (3.9m) say they curbed their illegal behaviour ‘a little’. Driving while using a mobile phone is thought to be more dangerous than drink driving in impairing driving ability, but with cuts to roads policing, there are simply fewer officers to catch offenders, reducing the risk of being caught.

Pete Williams, of the RAC said: “Despite the law change and some high profile police enforcement campaigns we are in a situation where overall roads policing officer numbers are down on 2016 by a massive 30% since 2007.

“It is clear we have a hard core of persistent offenders who believe they can get away with it by continuing to flout the law every day and we fear this may get worse with fewer dedicated roads policing officers.”

After an unpromising start, having to be bribed by her parents to learn to ride without stabilisers, Sarah became rather keener on cycling in her university years, and was eventually persuaded to upgrade to proper road cycling by the prospect of a shiny red Italian bike, which she promptly destroyed by trapping a pair of knickers in the rear derailleur. Sarah writes about about cycling every weekend on road.cc.

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