Driver’s caught using their mobile phones whilst driving - even if they are stopped at traffic lights - are to face tougher penalties as of Wednesday 1st March 2017.
Under the new rules, drivers will receive six points on their licence and a £200 fine, up from three points and a £100 fine.
Drivers who have recently passed their test could require to re-sit their test the first time they are caught and those caught more than once could face a six-month disqualification and a fine of up to £1,000.
In 2016, the RAC’s annual Report on Motoring revealed that a third of drivers surveyed said they had used a handheld mobile phone whilst driving, a staggering increase of 23% over just a two-year period.
Of those who admitted using their phone while driving:
If you spend any time standing at the side of a road it will not take long to tally a hefty number of people driving past using their phone. The top deck of a double-decker which gives a good aerial view can also reveal a startling trend of drivers passing whilst using their phone.
The reality is that drivers continue to gamble with the safety of themselves and others. The growing trend of being glued to our phones at every waking moment has seemingly spread to include the time spent driving.
Perhaps people think they will not get caught, or perhaps they think that even if they do the penalty is light enough that they can afford to take the risk.
Although the new rules go some way to addressing such a mentality, if indeed that is the problem, it is worth remembering that it might not just be the fine, the points, the re-sit of the test and any increased insurance premiums that you need to worry about.
There could also be adverse consequences for your job, your family life and your own freedom if you drive whilst using your phone.
In 2014, Danny Warby was driving a 13.6 tonne vehicle when he crashed into a car being driven by off-duty police officer Det Con Sharon Garrett. At the time, Mr Warby was reading a text message. Mrs Garrett died at the scene.
Mr Warby was convicted of dangerous driving, banned from driving for ten years and was jailed for six years.
In 2015, cyclist Lee Martin suffered fatal injuries when he was struck by a van being driven by Christopher Gard.
Mr Gard had at least six prior convictions for driving whilst using a mobile phone. He was jailed for nine years.
In 2016, Tomasz Kroker was driving a lorry when scrolling through music on his phone. Although driving at 50mph, he had barely looked at the road for almost a kilometre.
He crashed into the back of stationary traffic, instantly killing Tracy Houghton and her sons, Ethan, 13 and Joshua 11, along with her partner’s daughter, Aimee Goldsmith, 11. Mr Kroker was sentenced to ten years in prison.
The message cannot be more clear – aside from driving whilst using your phone being illegal, the consequences can be fatal and a moment of inattention could literally destroy your life and others.
Be safe, and put your mobile phone away.
Cycling has never been more popular in Scotland. The increase in national cycling is due to many factors including the availability of cycle to work schemes, the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games and active lifestyles.
It is expected that by 2020, 10% of all journeys in Scotland will be by cycling.
There are many ways to explore the diverse, rugged and impressive landscapes that the Scottish Highlands has to offer, whether this is on or off road. This may include participating in organised race events, charity events or even exploring for fun.
Renowned routes such as Bealach na Ba to Applecross, sections of the North Coast 500 and events such as the Highland Cross or the Loch Ness Etape see thousands flock to the Highlands each year.
As enjoyable and thrilling as these routes are, safety must always be a paramount consideration.
Irrespective of whether it is an organised event or a social ride, knowing your route before setting off is a must.
It can save a huge amount of time if you miss a turn in a poorly marked race course or can save miles for those who may take a wrong turn on a social ride.
It also allows you to plan how long and demanding you want your ride to be taking into account factors such as the distance and gradient.
It is also imperative for scheduling those coffee, CAKE and comfort breaks.
Checking the weather forecast. It may not always be reliable but an indication of bad weather ahead is better than a long cycle into gale force winds.
As a cyclist you are more exposed to the dangers of the road. Cyclists want to wear the most practical, light weight and comfortable clothing to allow us to manoeuvre freely and without restrictions.
Although this is all important, we must consider what makes us more visible to other road users.
For that reason, wearing light coloured or fluorescent clothing helps other road users to see you not only during the day but significantly improves your visibility in darkness. Items with reflective strips and/or accessories such as belt, arm or ankle bands also assist.
In terms of our bikes it is stated under the Highway Code that a cyclist when using a bicycle on a road must have the following:
Whilst most bikes do not as standard come with a bell, it can be worthwhile when cycling through busy towns or villages to makes pedestrians aware that you are there. They may not be a very trendy accessory but it is better than cycling into a pedestrian.
A good quality helmet is without doubt fundamental. Sunglasses will protect you from not only bright light and glare, but also from wind, rain, bugs, dust and road debris.
Layers! Be prepared for all eventualities and organise your gear the night before.
We know that in the Highlands we can experience all four seasons in one day. Taking multiple layers allows you to change clothing to suit the conditions.
In cold weather, layers will protect your extremities to make the experience and cycle much more enjoyable. This can include:
Ensuring that you have sufficient food and water will prevent you from becoming exhausted. You should be aiming to consume 500-1000 ml of fluid per hour depending on your build and conditions.
Carbohydrates need to be consumed early, in small amounts and frequently. The promise of a coffee and a cake at the end of a cycle is always worth that last almighty climb; therefore having a waterproof pouch of money will come in handy.
A fully charged mobile phone should always be taken.
Taking the right tools and equipment could save a very long walk to the nearest town or village. Carrying a puncture repair kit or spare inner tubes, tyre levers, air canisters or a hand pump are a must. It is not uncommon for Highland roads to catch you out with debris or rogue potholes.
When cycling in a group, extra considerations should be given to other road users and also your fellow cyclists.
The rules in the Highway Code state you must never ride more than two abreast, ride in single file on narrow or busy roads and when riding round bends. This allows you to be more alert and determine the best way to cycle in a group.
By appointing someone to take the lead deciding on the best passing place, ensuring that the cyclists behind are made aware of the pot holes, cattle grids, railway lines and so on.
Equally the rider at the back will let the group know when a car is approaching. It makes for a safer, less stressful and more enjoyable ride.
Expect the unexpected.
Don’t be surprised if you come across a sheep crossing the road or need to dodge other items on the road, patches of ice or wet leaves.
Ride sensibly in mind of the road conditions assessing your speed and distance given to other cyclist and road users, especially on different road surfaces and varying weather conditions.
The traction of your bike will be different depending on the road surface and dampness. Many Highland routes have sharp bends and descents.
Enjoy and be safe.
Digby Brown Edinburgh raised a fantastic £2,600 from a quiz night for Forth 1 Cash for Kids – along with additional funds from Christmas fundraising.
Staff from the Edinburgh office along with friends and family came along to the charity quiz in November making the night a huge success.
The evening kicked off at 6pm in Augustine United Church on George IV Bridge with time for guests to get refreshments and enjoy the buffet.
The quiz commenced at 7pm with our host, Radio 2 DJ Alan Edwards. The teams battled it out to victory with Team Ivana coming up tops for the night!
Guests had the additional excitement of winning an array of prizes including:
Friday 9th December saw a firm wide Christmas Jumper day in aid of local charity partners. The Edinburgh office also planned a festive quiz and baking to raise additional funds for Cash 4 Kids – totalling £150 on the day.
The big campaign in December for Cash for Kids was the Mission Christmas appeal. To further help, our staff kindly donated toys for collection which were to be delivered to families in Edinburgh, Lothians and Fife.