Drivers face tough new penalties for using mobile phones at the wheel

Drivers face new tougher penalties from tomorrow if they are caught using a mobile phone at the wheel.
Drivers face new tougher penalties from tomorrow if they are caught using a mobile phone at the wheel.

Motorists are being reminded that they face increased penalties for using a mobile phone while driving from tomorrow.

New legislation doubles the penalties, to a £200 fine and six penalty points on the offender's licence.

Research has shown that being distracted by a phone while driving - whether it is being used to make calls, messages or going online - can make a driver up to 25 times more likely to be involved in an accident.

A Twitter poll of 2,149 people in the UK, carried out by the National Accident Helpline, showed 78% of people are in favour of an increase in penalties,.

Only 14% were against an increase, while the remaining 8% said they weren’t sure.

Many voiced their concerns that the new penalties are still not high enough.

When you can use a mobile phone while driving. Image: National Accident Helpline.

When you can use a mobile phone while driving. Image: National Accident Helpline.

Almost a third said the revised penalties ought to be even higher.

Meanwhile, the company’s Google Survey of 2,000 drivers revealed that 23% admit to using a hand-held phone while driving in the last 12 months.

In fact, using a phone while driving is still a widespread problem, despite recent police crackdowns and campaigns by organisations such as Brake and the RAC.

And it's under-35s who are more likely to break the law, with more men doing so than women.

When you can not  use a mobile phone while driving. Image: National Accident Helpline.

When you can not use a mobile phone while driving. Image: National Accident Helpline.

The most common reason for using a phone while driving was adjusting a maps app (10%), followed by making or receiving a call (9%), texting (8%), browsing social media (5%) and checking or sending a work email (4%).

It is illegal to use a hand-held phone while driving, even when stuck in traffic.

Drivers may only use a phone to call 999 or 112 in an emergency if it’s unsafe or impractical to stop, or if safely parked.

Simon Trott, managing director of National Accident Helpline, said: “With the new legislation about to increase penalties for using a hand-held phone while driving, we wanted to highlight how much people in the UK are being distracted by technology while driving.

“We know that this is one of the main causes of accidents on the road, and we welcome any change in the law that improves road safety.

“We hope the increase in penalties will help to deter drivers from being tempted to use their phones at the wheel.”

A survey by Marmalade, the leading provider of cars and insurance for 17-24-year-olds, has revealed that just under half of all drivers do not know about the increased penalties.

This change will most affect drivers within their first two years of passing the test, as maximum points on their licence are capped at six, instead of the normal 12, so they could be banned for this offence.

Crispin Moger, chief executive of Marmalade, said: “It’s clear that education about the changes to the law has not been communicated well enough.

"This no-nonsense approach is something I support, and although it will no doubt hit young people the hardest, eradicating dangerous habits from the off-set will save lives."