Drivers' mobile phone penalty may increase

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The Independent Online

Motorists caught flouting the ban on using mobile phones at the wheel could pick up more penalty points, it emerged yesterday.

Drivers found using a phone illegally while on the road currently face a fine of £60 and three points, but this could be increased further under new proposals being considered by the Government.

The existing regulations were introduced in February 2007.

A Department for Transport spokesman said: "Research shows that using a mobile phone while driving makes you four times more likely to have a crash.

"That is why we increased the penalty to a £60 fine and three penalty points, and why we run publicity campaigns to highlight the dangers of calling or texting at the wheel as well as working with the police on enforcement.

"The message is getting through and our national surveys show a 35% fall in the number of drivers using a phone behind the wheel since the penalties were increased.

"However, we are not complacent and if our new survey - due to be released in February - shows an increase in the number of drivers using hand-held mobile phones, then we will need to consider increasing penalty points as part of our new road safety strategy."

On its website, the Department for Transport said reaction times for drivers using a hand-held phone were 30% worse than for driving under the influence of alcohol at the legal limit.

Driving organisation the AA said more effective enforcement of the current regulations was urgently needed to tackle the issue.

Paul Watters, the AA's head of roads policy, said: "The main thing is that we could do with more people being caught under the current points system.

"There has been an increase in drivers using mobiles, noticeably in London.

"We also think there is a real need for awareness courses for drivers caught."

Mr Watters said there might be an argument for increasing the number of penalty points in line with the severity of the individual offence.

New drivers reaching six points within two years of passing their test risk having their licence revoked and needing to re-sit their test.

Motorists caught driving without insurance currently risk being handed between six and eight penalty points, plus a fine of up to £5,000.