Recent efforts by the government to strengthen penalties for driving while using mobile phones have been well received thus far. From road safety experts to most of the fleet industry, the general reaction to the changes is one of agreement and support. Still, there is room for improvement.
Penalty points for being caught driving while using a mobile phone went up from 1st March. Now, six points will be added to a driving licence instead of the former three, and fines have been doubled from £100 to £200. It is hoped that the increased points and higher fine will dissuade people from using their phones while driving.
Fines Comparatively Low
While the Brake charity welcomes the changes as better than nothing, they say that the fines are still too low when compared to other things. For example, Brake campaigns director Gary Rae called the £200 fine inadequate in light of the fact that the fine for not having a TV licence is £1000. Driving while distracted by a mobile phone is a far deadlier exercise than watching TV without a licence.
Brake officials are also concerned about gradually declining enforcement efforts. He attributes the slowed enforcement to falling numbers of traffic police on the roads. According to Fleet News UK, the number of road traffic police officers is down almost a third over the last six years, to just ‘3,700 specialist officers in England and Wales’.
Distractions and Road Accidents
Government action to increase penalty points and fines isaction that has been a long time coming. Statistics clearly show that upwards of 30% of all road accidents in the EU region are in some way related to distractions. Unfortunately, mobile phones and social media provide two of the biggest distractions to drivers. But drivers don't have to be texting or posting to run into problems. Even talking on a mobile phone while driving can lead to an accident.
Scientific studies have shown that the split second it takes to glance at a phone screen to acknowledge a text or call is long enough to lead to a deadly accident. It's not enough for drivers to be dissuaded from texting or posting to social media; they need to be pressured into turning their phones off entirely.
Let the Crackdown Begin
With the new penalty points and fines now in place, it's time for the crackdown to begin. Government changes have been well received thus far, but the perception among industry experts and the general public may turn negative if we discover that stiffer penalties actually have no teeth. The proof will ultimately be found in enforcement efforts.
Driving while distracted is a deadly practice that should never even be a thought that enters the driver's mind. If it takes more points on a driving licence and stiffer fines to get that message across, so be it. The number of lives lost to distracted driving dictates we do whatever it takes.
Fleet News UK – http://www.fleetnews.co.uk/news/fleet-industry-news/2017/03/02/road-safety-experts-and-fleet-industry-suppliers-welcome-tougher-penalties-for-mobile-phone-use-while-driving