Using your mobile when driving? Watch out, six penalty points coming your way
The UK government has announced plans to increase the penalties for drivers caught using a phone behind the wheel which will come into force in Scotland on March 1st 2017.
With 30% of UK motorists admitting to using their phone while behind the wheel and 16% admitting to sending a text or posting on social media, it is clear that the risks of such behaviour are not being taken seriously by many drivers.
Drivers using mobile phones whilst driving is rising
Use of a hand-held phone or similar device has been illegal in the UK since 2003. Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents reported an initial decrease in the use of hand-held phones after the ban and again after the increase in penalties in 2007, however, their use while driving has been steadily rising since.
New drivers would lose license if caught using mobile phone
The new plans expect to see the penalty points and fines for drivers' texting, calling or using an app when driving to double, to 6 penalty points and £200.
New drivers caught using a mobile phone whilst driving would have their licence revoked by DVLA. They would need to re-apply for their provisional licence and resit the theory and practical tests as a result.
17 people killed in 2014 by distracted drivers on mobiles
The devastating impact of a driver distracted by their phone is felt by families up and down the country.
The Department for Transport figures recorded that use of a phone while driving was a contributory factor in 17 fatal accidents in 2014, although this is thought to be an underestimate of the true picture.
Woman tried to delete evidence on phone after killing cyclist
There have been a number of high profile prosecutions in Scotland, such as that of Julie Watson, who killed a cyclist in 2013 while using her phone.
After the collision she tried to hide the evidence that she had been on her phone by deleting the record of the call.
Not only was she convicted of death by dangerous driving but for attempting to pervert the course of justice for trying to cover up the call.
She was sentenced to five years in jail.
Are hands-free phones the answer?
Use of hands-free technology to make calls is not illegal in the UK and is a common feature in many modern cars.
Hands-free phones found to be just as dangerous
However, research by the University of Sussex suggests that conducting a conversation ‘hands-free’ is equally distracting as one on a hand-held device.
Drivers were slower to respond to hazards or even failed to detect hazards while talking on a hands-free device.
Worse than drink driving?
Some studies have even found that using such a device while driving is as bad or sometimes worse than driving when drunk.
“But isn’t a conversation on a hands-free device just the same as speaking to a passenger?” I hear you ask.
Again, the research would say otherwise. Passengers are able to observe the conditions and surroundings faced by the driver and modify their conversation accordingly.
They can respond to the non-verbal cues of the driver and know when they need to concentrate. A person on the other end of a phone is unable to do any of these things.
What about sat navs?
And while the use of hands-free phones, sat nav and other technology in a car is not illegal, if they cause the driver to be distracted and not in control of the vehicle, the same penalties apply as though they were using a hand-held phone or device.
The message is clear
When behind the wheel, give your full attention to the road and surrounding environment. It only takes a moment of distraction to cause a life-changing accident.
Your phone can wait.