Phone users still at large

A driver is caught using their mobile phone every seven minutes, in spite of tougher penalties for the illegal offence coming into force.

In the four weeks since re-enforced punishments for handheld use behind the wheel took effect, UK police forces have penalised nearly 6,000 motorists – over 200 a day.

Since March 1, drivers found using their handheld device behind the wheel – whether for calls, messages or social media – have faced receiving six points on their licence and a £200 fine, a doubling of the previous penalty in place.

The changes mean new drivers risk losing their licence for sending a single text.

The RAC says while the numbers are a concern, they are sadly not surprising. Earlier in the year it pointed to figures which suggest an obsession with ‘fear of missing out’ (FOMO) has intensified in the social media era, and is now spilling over into the time spent behind the wheel.

RAC road safety spokesman Pete Williams said ‘The RAC identified that the use of a handheld mobile phone by drivers to talk, text, tweet and even take photographs is at epidemic proportions and it is going to take a combination of factors to get the message across that anyone breaking the law will be caught and prosecuted.’

‘We have launched the BePhoneSmart pledge website to encourage people to make a promise to stop using their handheld phone when driving and to share it with friends and family.’

Brake spokesman Jack Kushner wants the £200 fine to be ‘significantly increased’ to deter offenders, while police have said they want to ensure using a mobile while driving is thought of in the same bracket as drink-driving.