Tougher consequences for drivers caught using handheld mobile phones after March 1st

  |  Published: Feb 28th 2017

As of March 1st, if caught using a handheld mobile phone at the wheel, drivers will face double the penalties. The fine is increasing from £100 to £200, and licence points are increasing from three to six; for drivers who have had their licences for less than two years, this will mean reverting to learner status, reapplying for a provisional licence and taking both the theory and practical tests again.

Using a handheld device at the wheel has been illegal in the UK since 2003, when a three point penalty and £30 on-the-spot fine was introduced. Since then, the fine has risen from £30 to £60 in 2007, and then to £100 in 2013 but this is the first time the potential points incurred has also been raised. This new six point penalty will mean losing their licence altogether for new drivers who have not yet been driving for 2 years; a tough consequence aimed at the younger drivers who, research indicates, are the worst offenders. Despite being made law more than ten years ago, recent surveys have shown that drivers are more nonchalant about breaking the law than ever before, with the percentage of people who think it’s acceptable to take a call while driving has doubled in the last two years.

Mark Shaw, Buckinghamshire County Council's Cabinet Member for Transport, welcomes the increased penalties: 

“I see so many drivers in Buckinghamshire using their mobiles at the wheel, and it makes my blood boil! The fact that some drivers think it is acceptable to focus even a part of their attention on some text message, call, or – even worse – social media while they are driving, is terrifying. My message to drivers is: put the phone away while you are in the car. It is not safe – no matter how good a driver you think you are, you are 50 per cent less focussed when you are on your phone. To think anything else is pure arrogance, and it could cost a life.”

Remind yourself of the details of the ban:

  • It includes using your mobile phone to follow a map, read a text or check social media. This applies even if you’re stopped at traffic lights or queuing in traffic.
  • You can only use a handheld phone if you are safely parked or need to call 999 or 112 in an emergency and it’s unsafe or impractical to stop.
  • If you’re caught using a handheld phone while driving, you’ll get 6 penalty points on your licence and a fine of £200. Points on your licence will result in higher insurance costs.
  • Fines can increase to £1000, or more, if being caught results in prosecution for dangerous driving.
  • You may use a hands-free phone while driving but you can still be prosecuted if you’re not in proper control of your vehicle. The penalties are same as being caught using a handheld phone.
  • The penalties for driving carelessly or dangerously when using a handheld or hands-free phone can include disqualification, a large fine and up to two years imprisonment.

Why the ban matters:

  • Research shows you are four times more likely to have an accident while on phone.
  • Reaction times for drivers using a phone are around 50 per cent slower than normal driving.

Even careful drivers can be distracted by a call or text - and a split-second lapse in concentration could result in a crash

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