One of the most dangerous things you can do on the road is using your phone whilst driving. It is vital that your concentration is 100% on your surroundings, with fellow road users, potential hazards, and pedestrians all needing your attention. Taking your eyes off the road for even a couple of seconds to read a text or open a message can see your vehicle travel a distance that could prove fatal. By the time your eyes return to the road, it could too late, as it takes time for you to absorb your surroundings again and to assess potential threats.
To try and tackle the ever-growing problem of selfish drivers using their phones behind the wheel, the government has announced that tougher punishments will be introduced. Under new rules announced in September, but expected to come into effect in 2017, drivers will receive six points on their license and a £200 fine if caught. Newly qualified drivers will also be more harshly treated and could be made to retake their test too.
The fine is double that of the current £100 rate, as are the points which currently stand at three. Although this is a big improvement, many people have argued that the proposals don’t go far enough.
If you are found above the legal drink driving limit it is a criminal offence and can result in a driving ban, a fine and even imprisonment. As a practise, it is socially unacceptable, and that comes as a result of both the punishment involved and the work done in terms of advertising. Using your mobile phone whilst driving needs to be seen in the same way, so that people know they will feel the full force of the law and understand the potential consequences.
One change that is going in a positive direction is the introduction of escalating punishments for repeat offenders. It has been said that the changes will see more experienced drivers going to court if they offend more than once, with the fines rising to £1,000 and at least a six-month driving ban introduced.
With an RAC survey suggesting that nearly a third of UK motorists text, make calls or use apps at the wheel, it isn’t surprising that changes are being made. The biggest problem that the government faces is enforcing the changes, with less traffic police numbers on the road and cameras unlikely to catch you in the act. It is up to us as responsible drivers to help force people to see how selfish and potentially fatal the act can be.
Turn your phone off, put it away and wait until you arrive before checking it. This simple act could save someone’s life, maybe even your own.