Using a mobile device whilst driving has been banned since 1988. Yet on average 1 person per hour is caught using their mobile phone whilst driving. This caused an estimated 492 accidents during 2014 across Britain. 84 of these were classed as serious accidents and 21 resulted in loss of a life. In 2015 twenty two people died as a result of a driver being distracted by a mobile phone. Despite all this, although convictions are decreasing, a recent RAC study found that there are more drivers than ever flouting the ban and that most re-offend. The high profile case of the cyclist, Lee Martin, who was run over in 2015 by a driver distracted by his phone highlights this. He had 8 previous convictions for the same offence! The time has come for tougher sanctions.
The government therefore plans to double the penalty. At present drivers will receive a fixed penalty of 3 penalty points and £100 fine. The new regime will mean a £200 fine and 6 penalty points with suggestions that the fine may rise to £1,000. This would mean drivers caught twice would lose their licence and new drivers, who can only incur a maximum of 6 points, would face automatic disqualification. This is of course in addition to the inevitable hike in insurance premiums.
Given the potentially lethal effects answering a text or using an app whilst driving a car can have we support this new proposal, particularly given the deliberate nature of using a mobile whilst driving. Whilst a momentary inadvertence can lead to a person exceeding the speed limit by a few miles per hour it takes a deliberate act to pick up and use a mobile phone. There is no excuse given the range of hands free devices on the market. No phone call is so important that it is worth putting your own and other road users lives at risk. Calls to emergency services are of course excluded from the ban in circumstances where it is unsafe or impractical to stop.
The use of SatNav and hands free devices are also excluded, unless they lead to lack of control over the vehicle. Otherwise drivers may only use their phones whilst safely parked.
Statistics show that Scots are the worst offenders throughout the UK, with 24,000 fines being issued last year. Hopefully the new regime, set to come in early 2017, will finally see an end to texting and driving.
Blog by Alan Calderwood, Accident Lawyer