The UK government plans on introducing “much tougher penalties” for drivers caught using their mobile phones on the road, with officials wanting to double existing penalties.
Under new rules, drivers caught using their mobile phone will receive 6 penalty points on their licence and a fine of £200 (up from the current 3 point penalty and £100 fine).
In addition, newly-qualified drivers spotted using a handheld phone could be forced to re-take their driving test, while experienced drivers could potentially go to court if they breach the rules twice and face possible fines of up to £1,000 on top of at least a six-month driving ban.
According to the Department for Transport, the changes are expected to take effect in the first half of next year.
The proposals were welcomed by AA president Edmund King.
“This is radical. One text and you’re out. But if we are to change the attitudes of young drivers maybe it has to be that harsh,” he said.
“Driving while using a phone is a dangerous habit which has only got worse over the last couple of years.
“The current fines and points are not enough of a deterrent. We need to double the fines and double the penalty points to have a real impact.”
The increased penalties are being introduced as attitudes towards using mobile phones whilst driving have relaxed.
The RAC’s Report on Motoring 2016 revealed that the percentage of drivers who feel it is acceptable to take a quick call on a handheld mobile phone doubled from 7% in 2014 to 14% in 2016. Similarly, the proportion of people who believe it is ok to check social media on their phone whilst stuck in traffic rose from 14% to 20% in 2016.
The percentage of drivers who admitted to having used a mobile whilst on the road jumped to 31% in 2016 compared to just 8% two years ago.
RAC road safety spokesman Pete Williams said: “There is clear evidence that the illegal use of handheld phones by drivers to talk, text, tweet, post, browse and even video call is, if anything, on the increase. It is alarming to see that some drivers have clearly relaxed their attitudes to the risks associated with this behaviour but more worryingly is the increase in the percentage of motorists who actually admit to using a handheld device when driving.
“The fact that drivers have little or no confidence that they will be caught when breaking these laws is a likely contributor to the problem and it is sadly the case that every day most road users see other drivers brazenly using their handheld phones when in control of a vehicle – a sight which should be a thing of the past.