Drivers caught using their mobile phones will face six points, a £200 fine and have no option of a remedial course.
New penalties announced by the Department for Transport to punish drivers for using a mobile phone behind the wheel come into force on Wednesday 1st March, with offenders risking a £200 fine and six driving licence penalty points for texting, making phone calls without a hands free kit or using social media whilst driving.
Anyone caught who has recently passed their test risks having their licence revoked.
The new rules apply in Wales, England & Scotland, drivers caught breaking the new law for a second time potentially facing a £1,000 fine and a six-month driving ban.
The new deterrents arrive in the aftermath of the RAC’s Report on Motoring 2016, which suggested that record numbers of motorists were using their phones on UK roads. It estimated that 11 million motorists had admitted to making or receiving a phone call in the 12 months prior to the report, with a further five million taking photos or videos while driving.
It has prompted a substantial increase to the current maximum sanction of £100 and three licence penalty points, and has renewed the effort to highlight the dangers posed by using a phone whilst driving.
The research conducted by the RAC also discovered that attitudes to mobile phone use behind the wheel has relaxed over the last couple of years, with those saying it was acceptable doubling from 7 per cent in 2014 to 14 per cent two years later.
The percentage of people who are comfortable checking social media in stationary traffic, at the lights or in congestion has also risen, up from 14 per cent to 20 per cent over the same period.
A third of drivers surveyed admitted to using their phones to take calls without the aid of a hands free system, while one in five confessed that they’d sent a text, email or had posted on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. This behaviour was most prevalent among drivers aged 17 to 24.
AA president Edmund King called the measures “radical”, adding: “If we are to change the attitudes of young drivers maybe it has to be that harsh.”
Last year Prime Minister Theresa may called for phone use while driving to be seen as culturally unacceptable as drink-driving, citing reports of fatal accidents caused by distracted drivers.
“The sentence should fit the crime for those who kill or seriously injure on our roads,” said May last November. “It should deter other drivers from causing needless harm just for the sake of taking a call or sending a text.”
The government’s desire to toughen up penalties is now being carried out by the DfT, and under the new plans those caught breaking this law for the first time will no longer be able to take a remedial course as an alternative to having points on their licence.
This is in contrast to some speeding penalties, where drivers may be offered a reprieve if they agree to undertake the National Speed Awareness Course.
The act of using a phone while driving might be easier to police in the future, if new technology designed to identify offenders using speed cameras bears fruit.
US tech company Movidius, in partnership with Chinese surveillance camera company Hikvision, has developed a new camera that uses Deep Neural Networks to analyse footage in real time.
It is hoped that the artificial intelligence will be able to identify transgressions such as texting or not wearing a seatbelt without needing to send the data to a remote server. It will also be able to recognise each vehicle’s make and model as well.
While the technology is still in development, the Movidius boss Remi El-Ouazzane is confident that it could have “a large impact on the way infrastructures are being used.”