#Think! Penalties for Tweeting and taking Selfies at the Wheel set to Double

#Think! Penalties for Tweeting and taking Selfies at the Wheel set to Double

The penalty points and fines for driving while using a mobile phone are set to double under new proposals set out by the Department of Transport.

The new rules, that are set to be introduced in the first half of 2017, are in a direct response to the rise in the numbers of people tweeting, taking selfies and live streaming video while driving.

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These new trends are in addition to the existing and continued unsafe practices of making phone calls and reading and writing text messages and emails while driving.

In this news story we highlight what the new penalties will be and what the law says about using a mobile phone while driving. We also take a look at the latest statistics and research from the RAC, Transport Research Laboratory and Department of Transport.

The penalties: Using a mobile phone while driving

In England, Scotland and Wales, the proposed penalties for using a mobile phone while driving will see six points added to the driver’s license and this will be accompanied by by a minimum fixed £200 fine.

Using a mobile phone while driving

Newly qualified drivers may be made to retake their driving test on their first instance of phone use while driving. Experienced drivers may be forced to go to court if they offend twice and may face a minimum six month driving ban and a fine of up to £1,000.

The new penalties for using a phone while driving will most likely be launched in conjunction with a new high-profile government’s Think! Campaign.

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It has been a criminal offense since 1st December 2003 to use a mobile phone while driving. Originally the offense held a penalty of three points and a £30 fine, which was later increased to a £100 fine.

New drivers will already lose their driving license if they get six or more penalty points, within the first two years, of passing their test.

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In Northern Ireland, the offense is met with a £60 fine and three penalty points. The Department for Infrastructure, in Northern Ireland, plans no changes but said that it “will continue to monitor changes being made in Britain to see what can be learned.”

The Law: Using a mobile phone while driving

For those who are unsure of the law regarding using a mobile phone while driving, we clarify the law here:

  1. Drivers can only use a mobile phone in a vehicle if they need to call 999 or 112, in an emergency, and it is unsafe or impractical to stop
  2. The rules are the same even if the driver is queuing in traffic or stopped at traffic lights
  3. It is illegal to use a mobile phone when supervising a learner driver
  4. Drivers can use a mobile phone when the vehicle is safely parked 
  5. Hands-free phones and sat navs can be used while driving, but if the police deem that the driver is distracted or not in control of their vehicle, then they can still be stopped and penalised

RAC Report on Motoring

On the 15th September, the RAC Report on Motoring was released and it is the statistics from this research that has prompted a response from the government.

RAC Report on Motoring

The research included an RAC survey of 1,700 motorists. The survey highlighted that 31 percent of UK motorists make calls, text and use apps while driving. This shows a marked increase from the eight percent who admitted the same in 2014.

An estimated 11 million motorists have now admitted to making or receiving a call while driving, during the last 12 months. Alarmingly, five million people admit to having taken photos or recording a video while driving.

Young drivers, aged 17 to 24, are the worst offenders, with 36 percent admitting to taking photos or recording videos while driving.

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The proportion of people who feel that it is okay to take a quick call while driving has doubled, from seven percent in 2014 to 14 percent in 2016. Additionally, 19 percent admitted to sending a text, email or making social media post, up from seven percent two years ago.

Transport Research Laboratory

The Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) conducted a study using its Driving Simulator, which has been designed to provide a realistic driving task, in a safe and controlled environment.

Transport Research Laboratory

The study compared the driving reactions of people using a hands-free mobile phone, hand-held mobile phone and driving under the influence of alcohol.

The results showed that those using a hand-held mobile phone has 30 percent slower reactions than those who had exceeded the current drink drive limit.

Department of Transport statistics

The Department of Transport statistics show that drivers distracted by mobile phones, was a contributory factor in 492 accidents in Britain in 2014. These included 21 fatal and 84 serious accidents, with another 40 road deaths contributed to by distracted mobile phone users, in the last two years.

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Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, during a debate with MPs in the House of Commons, said “I am very clear that this is an unacceptable practice, and we intend to unveil tough action on it shortly.” He continued by saying “It may seem harmless when you are replying to a text, answering a call or using an app, but the truth is your actions could kill and cause untold misery to others.”

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The Department of Transport is clearly passionate about road safety and while these new penalties go some way to enforcing driving law, difficulties remain. Firstly, traffic cameras do not catch drivers using a mobile phone and secondly, there has been a reduction in the number of traffic police in recent years, with a 27 percent decrease between 2010 and 2015.

The Discussion: Using a mobile phone while driving

Those affected by driving accidents caused by the irresponsible use of mobile phones while driving, argue that the new proposals and penalties do not go far enough. However, it is plausible to argue though that the severity of the penalty is not the issue, it is how to identify, en masse, those that use their mobile phone while driving.

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Written by: Michael Brown