Police are to start seizing drivers’ mobile phones after a crash in order to check whether they were texting or calling while at the wheel.
Previously mobiles have only been taken when drivers are seriously injured or killed in a crash, but new guidelines issued by the Association of Chief Police Officers says that officers should check drivers’ mobiles even in the event of a minor shunt.
The intent is to crack down on mobile distractions while driving, with recent reports suggesting that more than 500 people are killed or seriously injured each year in the UK because drivers have been calling, texting or posting to social media.
Road safety charity Brake welcomed the new guidelines, with spokesperson Ed Morrow saying: "We are fully supportive of the efforts by the police to clamp down on mobile phone use at the wheel. Offenders need to know they will be caught, they will be prosecuted, and there will be serious consequences."
The crackdown might also be accompanied by an increase in the penalty for texting at the wheel to six points on drivers’ licenses instead of three. This would mean that drivers could be banned if they are caught using their phones just twice while driving.
However, some individuals are concerned that the new powers could be abused. Hugh Bladon of the Alliance of British Divers told Yahoo News: "I am 100 per cent against anyone texting while driving and those caught deserve everything they get. But I'm worried police could overdo it, just because someone is involved in a minor shunt, surely it shouldn't mean they should lose their phone."
Discussing the change to penalty points earlier this month, Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin described the amount of casualties from drivers using their mobile as "absolutely appalling". "We've got to change this," he said.