Mobile phone "crackdown"

23rd December 2015


DfT | 150 fine | Road Safety Plan | 4 points


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Think bike warning on a mobile phone

The UK government is looking to increase penalties for the dangerous twits who still use hand-held mobile phones whilst on the move.


Such road users are to face increased penalties and higher fines under proposals (note the word "proposals") from the Department for Transport (DfT). Currently, the fixed penalty for using a hand-held device on the move is 100 plus three licence points. Under the very recently published DfT's Road Safety Plan, that penalty will rise to a derisory 150 with four licence points (is it any wonder that road users don't take these fines seriously?).


First-time offenders and re-offenders will be offered an "educational course" to help them see the errors of their ways. Meanwhile, drivers of HGVs (heavy goods vehicles) will be smitten with 6 points on their licence.

So in the hands of the average motorist, how dangerous are mobile phones? The truth is, no one really knows. Certainly numerous experiments suggest that human reaction time is slowed significantly when a driver is busy chin-wagging on a phone (whether hand-held or not). And the nature of a given phone call also has a bearing (good news, bad news, argument with a spouse, etc).


Beyond that, the UK government reckons that in 2014, mobile phone usage was a factor in 21 fatal road accidents, and was a factor in 84 serious accidents. But take note that being "a factor" does not necessarily imply that the phone call actually led directly to a crash.


For instance, a driver might be talking on a mobile phone when a front tyre bursts. He might then lose control and hit another vehicle. However, the nature of the crash might mean that whether or not the driver was on the phone, it wouldn't have made any difference to the outcome of the crash. Nevertheless, the phone has become a factor.


Regardless, anecdotal evidence suggests that there's a very clear link between mobile phone usage and drivers not paying attention. Therefore, increased penalties can only be welcomed, especially by motorcyclists who are exposed to greater risk.


But 150 and four penalty points? The government's having a laugh, isn't? And this kind of "crackdown" (to use the government's own unofficial word) is no kind of crackdown at all.


Isn't it time that there was a one-strike-and-you're-out-for-a-year-or-so, rule?




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