Drivers could be banned if they’re caught driving with a mobile phone twice within three years. The new transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin is considering a proposal that will see the penalty for texting or making calls at the wheel doubled to six points.
Although using a handheld phone while driving has been illegal since 2003, numbers are steadily increasing. The transport secretary is looking at the proposal after it was mooted by Metropolitan Police commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe earlier this year. This followed the first increase in the number of road deaths on the streets of the capital for two decades.
Mr McLoughlin said: “The amounts of casualties there have been are absolutely appalling and the person who is using their phone doesn’t realise the damage or the danger. In 2011 driving while using a mobile phone was recorded as a contributory factor in some 23 fatalities and 74 serious injuries. We have got to change this.”
Green Flag’s head of transformation, Nick Reid added: “We welcome any move that will help reduce the needless deaths and injuries on our roads. This move would send out a strong message to those who are willing to risk the lives of other roads users and their own. No text or call is important enough to jeopardise someone’s safety. We hope the increased points will act as a suitable deterrent to support the reduction of these incidents.”
The calls were backed up by research from the influential Transport Research Laboratory. This found that sending text messages slowed reaction times by 37 per cent. Using cannabis delayed it 21 per cent, and drinking to the legal limit 13 per cent. Speaking on a phone slowed it by 46 per cent.
Currently if you’re caught using a mobile at the wheel the punishment is three penalty points and a £100 fine. Civil servants are investigating increasing the fine to £150. Putting up the penalty to six points would mean new drivers could be banned after a single offence. This is because those who’ve just qualified have half the 12-point threshold of drivers who’ve held a full licence for more than two years.
Although civil servants are working up a potential change to legislation, any new law is unlikely to be passed before next year’s general election.