The Department of Transport (DfT) has announced that there will be stricter rules in place for road users who use their hand held phones while driving. The hardest hit by this new regulation will be Truck/Van drivers and new drivers as it could result in them losing their licence; and there will now be no ‘soft option’ of remedial training course they will now receive 6 penalty points and £200 fixed penalty notice (FPN) fine for first offenders. The move follows nearly a year of public consultation which brought a high demand of support for penalties to be increased this due to the number of fatal crashes involving drivers using their mobile phones. In one case a trucker killed a mother and three children in a stationary car in the A34 near Newbury in Berkshire last summer and was jailed for 10 years.
It was back in 2003 when mobile phone penalties were first introduced at a £30 fineif you were caught using a hand-held device. This has little impact and drivers still continued to use their phones whilst driving so in 2007 the fine was increased to £60 and 3 penalty points were introduced for all offending drivers. In 2013 the fine was increased again to £100. Even with the increased fines and introduction of penalty points there has been no reduction in people using mobile phones when driving. In fact it has increased according the RAC who surveyed 1,714 motorists 31% of them admitted to using a handheld phone behind the wheel compared with 8% in 2014.
The government has already rejected calls for truck drivers to be treated differently by saying ‘Given the tragic consequences which can result from any driver using a mobile phone when driving, it is important that all drivers understand the consequences of their actions.’ They have also said ‘For vocational drivers, the increase in the FPN points will have a higher impact as Traffic Commissioners can already revoke their HGV/PSV licence entitlement once 6 points are reached.’ This means for many truck and van drivers it could mean loss of a job and income if they are caught using a mobile and it can also have an effect on their employment and companies may not wish to offer them a position.
The other driving sector which the new law will highly affect is that of new drivers (those who have passed their driving test in the last 2 years). As they run the risk of having their licence revoked by the DVLA once they reach 6 points rather than the usual 12. So this means if they are caught using a hand held mobile within the first 2 years of driving they face a ban, points on their licence and a fixed penalty notice. They will then also be financially hit again as they will have to pay more money in order to reapply for provisional licence and pass once again both their theory and practical driving tests.
The DFT states: ‘The evidence shows that young drivers are the most likely group to be observed using a mobile phone while driving. The majority of novice drivers are young people, below the age of 25, and, although it is recognised that this group will be disproportionately impacted, they are also more likely to offend in the first place. Targeting this group with relatively higher penalties is thus likely to lead to greater behavioural change and more positive road safety outcomes.’
So it is important that drivers are aware of the new law coming into practice on the 1st of March 2017 and even though you shouldn’t be using your mobile whilst driving there is now greater reason not to use it. It is also important to note as well, if you already have a couple of speeding penalty points on your licence and get caught with your mobile, you too also will face a ban which will not be good for your insurance as they are treated harshly which could result in an increase of premium or refusal to insure you. Therefore make sure that you do not use you mobile phone whilst driving as that slight lapse in concentration could result in you crashing your vehicle or worse.
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