Driving Whilst Using A Mobile Phone – Penalty To Increase
The government has announced tougher sanctions for driving whilst using a mobile phone. Both the financial and points penalties will double – the fine increasing from £100 to £200 and 6 points endorsed to a licence instead of the former 3 points.
The reasons for this proposed change to the law are many and include: the increase in unlawful mobile phone use whilst driving; the lack of prosecutions and convictions for this offence; and the failure of the general public to take the offence seriously.
Importantly, a number of high-profile cases has tipped the balance in favour of making penalties more punitive. These include the death of cyclist, Lee Martin, 48, in 2015, who was killed by a driver who had eight previous convictions for using his phone at the wheel.
Part of the problem is that mobile phones are ubiquitous these days, and a taken-for-granted item for the younger generation, who have never been without them. However, mobile phone use crosses age and gender divisions. To put our collective mobile phone use into some sort of context, a survey earlier this year showed that the average person swipes, taps and pinches their display about 2,617 times a day.
So, changing attitudes towards driving whilst using a mobile phone is vitally important.
Minister for Transport, Chris Grayling, said that driving whilst using a mobile phone was as socially unacceptable as drink or drug-driving. For this reason, he urged people to be watchful about the habits of their friends and family members and to help discourage people in their close circle from using mobile phones whilst driving.
The change in legislation will have dire consequences for newly qualified drivers (who have held their licences for less than 2 years), as they stand to have their licences revoked on reaching 6 points. As a result of this, they would return to learner driver status and have to reapply for a provisional licence until they have once again passed both theory and practical tests.
A source at the Department for Transport has said that a disproportionate number of those caught driving and using a mobile phone were either young, a newly qualified driver, or both.
This means that many newly qualified drivers could face the revocation of their licences after one mobile phone offence, whereas before this would have meant they had their new licence endorsed with 3 points and were effectively given a ‘second chance’ before they faced a revocation.
Another group of drivers who would be hit hard by the change in legislation is those in a ‘totting up’ position. As it stands, once an experienced driver (who has held their licence for more than 2 years) reaches – or exceeds – 12 penalty points, they automatically fall to be disqualified for a period of 6 months, unless they have grounds by which they can conduct a successful Exceptional Hardship application.
So, for those motorists with 6 points on their driving licences, who could have previously absorbed another 3 points for a mobile phone offence without tipping over the important 12 point limit, this means a 6 month disqualification under the ‘totting up’ provisions.
In line with the government’s commitment to be tougher on mobile phone use whilst driving, the Department for Transport is soon to launch a new ‘Think!’ campaign, to help raise awareness. It is hoped that the combination of re-education and tougher sanctions will act as a deterrent and make people think twice about using their mobile whilst driving.
If you have been charged with driving whilst using a mobile phone, or have questions about either a revocation of a licence or disqualification as a result of the ‘totting up’ of points, please contact our office today on 01623 397200 for free, initial advice.