New laws mean tougher penalties for those caught using phone while driving

PUBLISHED: 09:50 01 March 2017 | UPDATED: 10:21 01 March 2017

New laws introduced today will see tougher penalties for those caught using a mobile phone while driving. Picture: Thinkstock

New laws introduced today will see tougher penalties for those caught using a mobile phone while driving. Picture: Thinkstock

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Tougher penalties for those caught using a device at the wheel have been introduced today (Wednesday)

New laws on mobile phone use while driving come into effect today (Wednesday) with tougher penalties for those caught.

Anyone found using a smartphone, or a similar device such as a tablet or sat nav could get six penalty points on their license and a £200 fine.

That means anyone who has been driving for less than two years could have their license revoked.

Information from gov.uk says drivers ‘must stay in full control of their vehicle at all times’ and the rules still apply when stopped at traffic lights or queuing in traffic.

Using a phone as the driver is allowed if you need to call 999 in an emergency and its unsafe or impractical to stop; or if you are safely parked.

Hands free devices are also allowed, but you can still be prosecuted if you’re not in proper control of your vehicle, and the driver must not hold the phone at any time.

‘Put your phone away’

Devon and Cornwall Police will be out on the region’s roads as the legislation comes into effect.

The option of taking an awareness course instead of receiving points on your license will not be offered.

Chief Inspector Adrian Leisk, head of the roads policing alliance, said: “These tougher new penalties reflect the seriousness with which the police, public and the government hold the illegal activity of using a handheld mobile device while driving.”

“We cannot understate how devastating the consequences of driving while distracted can be. Just a moments distraction from the road can have tragic results as national figures and recent high profile cases show.”

Picture: National Accident HelplinePicture: National Accident Helpline

“This has gone beyond answering phone calls. Texting, checking social media accounts and even people streaming video of themselves are now achievable.

“If you are driving, the most responsible thing to do, and safest for you and other road users, is to put your phone in the glove compartment and leave it there until you have arrived safely at your destination.

“The penalties have got tougher and so have we. If you use your phone handheld while driving you will get caught and you will be fined and have points on your licence. Put your phone away.”

Laws welcomed by drivers

Simon Trott, managing director of National Accident Helpline, said: “We know that this is one of the main causes of accidents on the road, and we welcome any change in the law that improves road safety.

Picture: National Accident HelplinePicture: National Accident Helpline

“We hope the increase in penalties will help to deter drivers from being tempted to use their phones at the wheel.”

Research carried out by the National Accident Helpline showed 78 per cent were in favour of an increase in penalties, while only 14 per cent were against an increase.

Almost one third of those polled (32 per cent) said the revised penalties, at £200 and 6 licence points, ought to be even higher.

The helpline’s Google survey also revealed that people under 35 were 50 per cent more likely to have used a phone while driving (30 per cent), compared to those 35 and over (19 per cent).

The most common reason was adjusting a maps app (10 per cent of all respondents), followed by making or receiving a call (9 per cent), texting (8 per cent), browsing social media (5 per cent) and checking or sending a work email (4 per cent).

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