Using a hand-held mobile phone while on the move is a fatal distraction – that's the view of leading independent road safety charity IAM RoadSmart, as the increase in the punishment for drivers comes into force today (1 March).
Last November the Government announced that anyone caught using a hand-held mobile phone while at the wheel of a car would be fined £200 and receive six points on their licence – a doubling of the existing penalty.
The issue was brought into sharp focus last November when lorry driver Tomasz Kroker was jailed for 10 years when he killed a family of four in a crash caused by searching for music on his smartphone.
Those surveyed last year by IAM RoadSmart are becoming increasingly concerned by the issue. In the charity's Driving Safety Culture Survey (reference 1) over 86% of UK motorists thought distraction caused by mobile phones had become worse in the last three years.
Neil Greig, IAM RoadSmart Director of Policy and Research, said: "Addressing the growing problem of smartphone use whilst driving will require a combination of enforcement and education as well as drivers, passengers, companies and individuals taking more responsibility.
"IAM RoadSmart is disappointed that the government did not support our calls for first time offenders to be sent automatically on a re-education course specifically tailored to breaking our apparent addiction to being constantly connected. We also want to see car companies, mobile phone makers and social media providers working together to develop technical solutions to hand held mobile phone use in vehicles."
Neil added: "It is essential that drivers get the clear message that if you are on the phone and have a fatal crash you can expect to go to prison for a long time. There is a lot of support among the driving public for stronger penalties and more enforcement focus on mobile phones, but also a feeling that this is not always reflected in sentencing.