Drivers backing tougher measures for mobile phone use

Three penalty points and £60 for using a phone
Three penalty points and £60 for using a phone

Drivers recognise the dangers of using a mobile phone behind the wheel, the government claims.

The attitude shift comes as the government marks the first anniversary of new tougher measures designed to deter motorists from using hanheld mobile phones.

For the past year any driver caught using a phone has faced three penalty points on their license and a £60 fine, doubling the previous £30 penalty.

Since the tougher restrictions came into force 185,000 drivers in England and Wales have been caught using a phone.

Road safety minister Jim Fitzpatrick claimed the measures have public support, with nine in ten agreeing hand-held phones impair driving ability and three-quarters thinking drivers are needlessly putting themselves and others at risk if they use a phone.

Mr Fitzpatrick said: "It's quite simple - driving and mobile phones don't mix. Using a mobile behind the wheel makes you four times more likely to have a crash and a phone call just isn't worth that risk.

"That is why we increased the penalty for illegally using a mobile when driving to three penalty points and a £60 fine. One year on, I am delighted to see that the vast majority of people recognise the dangers of using a mobile when driving."

He added: "However, too many people are still putting themselves and others in danger for the sake of a phone call. I hope the first anniversary of the tougher penalties for mobile phone use will remind all drivers to switch off before they drive off or go to voicemail and listen to their messages later."

In an effort to increase compliance a multimedia £1.5 million THINK! campaign has been launched to highlight the dangers of driving while using a phone.

Statisticians already claim to have observed a 40 per cent fall in drivers using hand-held phones between September 2006 and August 2007, with one per cent of all drivers observed using a phone.

However, an RAC survey points to far weaker compliance, with 45 per cent of drivers admitting to texting while driving.

Liberal Democrat transport spokesman Norman Baker pointed out this can still be a "lethal combination".

Mr Baker said: "It's extremely worrying that many young drivers are so dependent on their mobile phones that they're unwilling to put them down even while driving.

"The penalties for using a mobile phone while driving have finally been toughened up, but with so many motorists still texting on the move, it's clear that better enforcement is needed."


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