Motorists want bigger penalties for illegal mobile use

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Fifty two per cent believe current punishment is not enough and should be increased

More than half of motorists believe the current penalty for the illegal use of a mobile at the wheel should be increased.

This is according to research carried out of 2,100 members of the RAC Opinion Panel, with 52 per cent feeling the standard penalty of three points and £100 fine isn’t enough.

From this number, a fifth (21 per cent) think both the number of penalty points and fine should be raised. Twelve per cent said just the fine should be increased, while six per cent stated only points should be.

Sixy one per cent of these people think the fine should be at least £200 and 36 per cent believe it should be at least £450. Among those who feel the offence should carry more penalty points, 61 per cent said it should be six points and 14 per cent were in favour of even more.

Forty-one per cent, however, believe it is already set at the correct level but nearly a third (31 per cent) say that increasing the severity of the penalty will not make any difference in changing the behaviour of those who are prepared to break the law in this way.

Just over a tenth (11 per cent) would like to see drivers disqualified, with 52 per cent saying this is the only thing likely to make a difference.

Two thirds (68 per cent) would like a bigger police presence to catch offenders. Three quarters (76 per cent) believe offenders are putting other people’s lives at risk.

The results come following a Government consultation on raising the fine from £100 to £150 and increasing penalty points for non-HGV drivers from three to four on March 15, with the final decision due to be made imminently.

More than a quarter of people asked about the Department of Transport changes said they were a good idea, but 69 per cent said they won’t make a difference as a substantial minority will still use their mobiles while driving.

RAC spokesman Simon Williams said: “There is a very strong feeling from law-abiding motorists that something needs to be done to make drivers stop using their phones while driving. But while people want the penalties for committing this offence to be beefed up there is also an acceptance that nothing is likely to change due primarily to a lack of enforcement.

“From 2010 to 2015 in England and Wales, the number of fixed penalty notices issued for using a handheld phone while driving reduced dramatically from a high of 125,500 in 2009 to 52,400 in 2012. In line with this, our own research has found that motorists believe there is little chance of being caught by a police officer (as opposed to a camera) for a driving offence.

“In the 13 years since specific legislation was introduced making it illegal to use a handheld phone while driving, mobile phones have evolved into smartphones, and the increased features offered by apps and faster internet access has raised interaction among users to near addiction levels. While being glued to the screen of a mobile phone when walking is dangerous enough, doing the same thing at the wheel of a vehicle, even just occasionally is a recipe for disaster.

“Changing this behaviour will only come through a combination of actions. We need more rigorous enforcement of the law, increased penalties that act as a meaningful deterrent and a high profile advertising campaign that makes motorists fully aware of the serious consequences of using a handheld phone at the wheel of a vehicle.”

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