On 1 March, 2017 the penalty charge for the “using a hand held mobile phone whilst driving” was changed from a £100 fine to £200 and from three to six points on your driving licence. It is now a year since the changes came into place.
Latest figures from Safer Roads Humber show that 658 drivers were detected using a handheld mobile phone whilst driving in 2017 (Jan – Dec 2017) of which over 400 people have had the opportunity to attend a driver training course. This is comparison to the 1,200 drivers detected in 2016 for the same offence.
Ruth Gore, spokesperson for Safer Roads Humber said:
“It is still too early to draw conclusions about the effectiveness of the changes to the mobile phone law but we are encouraged that the numbers seem to have dropped.”
“However, we urge all motorists to drive safely and appropriately at all times and this includes giving the road your full attention.”
National research from the Department for Transport Think! show that whilst awareness of the penalty increased improved among adult drivers in England & Wales, and the perception of danger and unacceptability of using a phone while driving remained high, one in six admitted to doing it.
Safer Roads Humber recommends drivers need to give their full attention to the road whilst driving; this includes not using hands free mobile phones. Research undertaken since the original offence was introduced in 2003 has shown that using a mobile device whilst driving seriously impedes the driver. It slows down reaction times, reduces peripheral vision, it can cause the driver to take their eyes off the road and to have erratic speed and steering; there is no difference between using a hand held or a hands free set.
Many people think using a mobile is the same as talking to a passenger in the car but in fact the brain has to work a lot harder talking to someone they can’t physically see. This takes the drivers attention from driving and tasks like texting and surfing are even more complicated. In 2017, 175 drivers were found “not to be in proper control of the vehicle” which will include some drivers trying to using their mobile out of sight of the windscreen.
Safer Roads Humber’s advice is to put your phone out of immediate reach so you’re not tempted to answer or use it. If you need to use the phone, find a safe place to pull over and switch off the engine before you use the phone.
A mobile phone is any device that is capable of sending and receiving telephone calls but even if you are using any of the other phone functions e.g. texting, streaming, using the internet or using it as a satnav etc. if you’re holding it in your hand then you are committing the offence of using a hand held mobile phone whilst driving.
Even using it in stationary traffic (like waiting at traffic lights) if the vehicles engine is running you are still committing the offence. To use your device you must be parked safely and the engine switched off.
The increased penalty has a bigger impact on newly qualified drivers, who return to learner status if they receive six or more points in the first two years of passing their test.
A new driver who has their licence revoked has to apply for a provisional licence again and take both the theory and practical part of the driving test. This alone costs around another £85 and they will be off the road for at least 10 days before they can retake their driving test. Insurance companies don’t like drivers with penalty points and many increase their premiums.