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Changes to mobile phone penalties – one year on

On 1 March 2017, the penalty charge for using a hand held mobile phone whilst driving was changed from a £100 fine to £200 and from three to six points on your driving licence. It is now a year since the changes came into place.

Latest figures from Safer Roads Humber show that 658 drivers were detected using a handheld mobile phone whilst driving in 2017 (Jan – Dec 2017) of which over 400 people have had the opportunity to attend a driver training course.  This is in comparison to the 1,200 drivers detected in 2016 for the same offence.

Ruth Gore, spokesperson for Safer Roads Humber, said: “It is still too early to draw conclusions about the effectiveness of the changes to the mobile phone law but we are encouraged that the numbers seem to have dropped. However, we urge all motorists to drive safely and appropriately at all times and this includes giving the road your full attention.”

National research from the Department for Transport Think! show that whilst awareness of the penalty increase improved among adult drivers in England and Wales, and the perception of danger and unacceptability of using a phone whilst driving remained high, one in six admitted to doing it.

Safer Roads Humber recommends drivers need to give their full attention to the road whilst driving; this includes not using hands free mobile phones.  Research undertaken since the original offence was introduced in 2003 has shown that using a mobile device whilst driving seriously impedes the driver. It slows down reaction times, reduces peripheral vision, it can cause the driver to take their eyes off the road and to have erratic speed and steering; there is no difference between using a hand held or a hands free set.

Many people think using a mobile is the same as talking to a passenger in the car but in fact the brain has to work a lot harder talking to someone they can’t physically see. This takes the driver’s attention from driving and tasks like texting and surfing are even more complicated. In 2017, 175 drivers were found “not to be in proper control of the vehicle” which will include some drivers trying to using their mobile out of sight of the windscreen.

Safer Roads Humber’s advice is to put your phone out of immediate reach so you’re not tempted to answer or use it.  If you need to use the phone, find a safe place to pull over and switch off the engine before you use the phone.

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