Tough new crackdown for drivers who phone at wheel

Embargoed to 0001 Monday October 19
PICTURE POSED BY MODEL 
File photo dated 13/08/14 of a woman talking on her phone while driving. Prosecutions for motorists using a phone at the wheel are down by almost half in five years despite a study showing the potentially dangerous practice is more common, official figures show. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Monday October 19, 2015. Data released by the Ministry of Justice last month show that just 17,414 prosecutions for drivers using their phone at the wheel were launched in magistrates' courts in England and Wales last year, down by 47% from 32,571 in 2009. See PA story TRANSPORT Phone. Photo credit should read: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire PPP-160624-135651001

Embargoed to 0001 Monday October 19 PICTURE POSED BY MODEL File photo dated 13/08/14 of a woman talking on her phone while driving. Prosecutions for motorists using a phone at the wheel are down by almost half in five years despite a study showing the potentially dangerous practice is more common, official figures show. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Monday October 19, 2015. Data released by the Ministry of Justice last month show that just 17,414 prosecutions for drivers using their phone at the wheel were launched in magistrates' courts in England and Wales last year, down by 47% from 32,571 in 2009. See PA story TRANSPORT Phone. Photo credit should read: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire PPP-160624-135651001

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A shocking report from the RAC has revealed that a third of drivers now admit to having used a mobile phone while at the wheel.

The figure has spiralled from eight percent in a 2014 survey carried out by the motoring body.

Now the Government has promised a “tough” new crackdown on people who use their mobile phones while driving and dubbed the practice “unacceptable”.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said: “that the Government would “shortly” announced action to tackle the problem after growing outcry.

Fines for drivers found guilty of using a mobile phone could increase by 50 per cent, jumping from £100 to £150, under one plan being looked at by ministers.

Another idea is to increase the number of penalty points for offences, rising from 3 to 4 for car drivers and 3 to 6 points for those people in large lorries.

The RAC found the proportion of drivers who confessed to sending a message or posting on social media while driving rose from 7 per cent to 19 per cent, while and some 14 per cent owned up to taking photographs or videos.

Chris Grayling said: “I am very clear that this is an unacceptable practice, and we intend to unveil tough action on it shortly.”

The RAC believes a 27% fall in the number of full-time dedicated roads policing officers in England and Wales (excluding London) between 2010 and 2015 has left drivers with no fear that they will be caught for offences which are not detected by automatic cameras.

The survey of 1,714 UK motorists for the RAC’s annual Report on Motoring found that 7% of those who admitted using a mobile while driving said they did it because they knew they would get away with it.

Almost a quarter (23%) claimed it was an emergency, 21% said they needed information for their journey and 12% replied it was something they were in the habit of doing.

Department for Transport (DfT) figures show that a driver impaired or distracted by their phone was a contributory factor in 492 accidents in Britain in 2014, including 21 that were fatal and 84 classed as serious.

RAC road safety spokesman Pete Williams said: “There is clear evidence that the illegal use of handheld phones by drivers to talk, text, tweet, post, browse and even video call is, if anything, on the increase.”

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