New legislation that is to be brought in will now mean motorists caught driving whilst on a mobile handset could be sent to jail for up to two years. The change in policy has come about as the altered laws involving mobiles and driving that were introduced in September are said not to have had the desired effect on motorists.
Using a mobile phones while driving was first banned in 2003, but since then thousands of drivers ignore the law each day, despite an increased £60 fine and penalty points being introduced in September.
Under the new guidelines most motorists caught using mobile handsets whilst driving will still face the increased fine and penalty points that was introduced in September. The changes however will give courts more power against anyone who has an accident whilst on their mobile, the result of which could be a dangerous driving conviction and a two year jail term.
Increased penalties do not solely apply to accidents but any driving that falls short of what is deemed safe. Sending text messages, speeding and over taking whilst on a mobile could therefore result in the increased penalties. The laws also include using Sat-Nav devices whilst driving.
Motorists who cause death on the road could additionally be prosecuted for manslaughter, a charge that carries penalties up to life imprisonment.
The change in policy comes at a time when the safety of using mobile hands free kits whilst driving has also been thrown into question, with one large transport company already banning employees from using them.
Findings from the Transport research Laboratory had suggested that driving whilst using a mobile handset could be more dangerous than drink driving. Other reports have also suggested using a mobile behind the wheel puts a drivers concentration at the same levels as the drink drive limit.
With hands free kits also being declared unsafe, it is suggested that it is actually speaking to someone not in the car themselves that is deemed distracting and is therefore dangerous.
“What we think that is to do with is that the passenger can see the traffic around you and can maybe pick up on your body language cues, and then modify the conversation accordingly.” Said Dr Nick Reed
I agree with the fact that driving whilst using a mobile phone is not only irresponsible but can impair someone’s driving ability, but to make such a stark comparison to drink driving is more a scare tactic in my opinion.
I can understand how concentration levels may temporarily drop whilst a mobile call is taken, but this is for the duration of the call, and no way does someone remain under that reduced state of awareness for anything like the length of time a driver under the influence of drugs or alcohol does.
If talking on a hands free kit is distracting, so too is talking to passengers, however I doubt the government will advise against car sharing!
Drivers who do answer a mobile whilst driving certainly do not set out on their journey with the intention of breaking the law, and it is a split second decision to answer the call. This does not justify it, but this point is intended solely to make the comparison with a driver under the influence who sets out intentionally breaking the law, knowing full well his ability to drive will be impaired for the entire duration of their journey. Yet people who do use a mobile handset could still end up with a two year jail term along side people the steal, rape and murder.
It is the culture of using electronic device behind the wheel that needs to be tackled, and with increased policing this culture would change.
“We’d like to see police on the streets taking action. The best deterrent is for a motorist to be either pulled over themselves or know someone else who has been stopped.” RAC
Unfortunately increased penalties which result in jail terms will only send otherwise law abiding members of society to an already overcrowded prison system, whilst proper criminals get increased parole, home sentencing and ASBO tracking.