From BBC News
Texting drivers: Penalty points and fines to double
Click here to read on the BBC News website
Drivers caught using handheld mobile phones in Britain are to face “much tougher penalties”, with fines and points doubling, the government says.
Under new rules expected to come in next year, drivers will get six points on their licence and face a £200 fine.
Newly qualified drivers could be made to retake their test the first time they are caught.
The RAC welcomed the move but said cuts to traffic police meant many drivers did not think they would be caught.
The new rules could also see more experienced drivers going to court if they offend twice, and facing possible fines of up to £1,000 and at least a six-month driving ban.
The increased penalties will be accompanied by a high-profile government Think! campaign highlighting the dangers of handheld mobile phone use at the wheel.
The Department for Transport said it expected the changes to take effect in the first half of 2017.
Earlier this week, a survey by the RAC suggested nearly a third of UK motorists text, make calls and use apps while at the wheel, with the number having risen since 2014.
Half of the 1,700 people questioned by the motoring organisation said they had even taken photos and made films while driving.
Department for Transport 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.
Analysis by Richard Westcott, BBC transport correspondent
It has been illegal for years but it is still common to see a driver using a handheld mobile at the wheel.
So the government is trying to send out a message, to make illegal phone use as socially unacceptable as drink-driving or not wearing a seat belt.
One of the big questions now though, is how will it be enforced.
The RAC says the problem has snowballed in recent years, partly down to a cut in traffic police numbers. Cameras won’t catch you using your phone.
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said:
“It may seem harmless when you are replying to a text, answering a call or using an app, but the truth is your actions could kill and cause untold misery to others.
“We all have a part to play in ensuring our family and friends do not use their phones while driving. I will be announcing a tougher new penalty regime shortly.”
Earlier this month, van driver Christopher Gard, from Alton in Hampshire, was jailed for nine years after he hit and killed cyclist Lee Martin while texting. Gard had at least six previous convictions for using a phone at the wheel.
The victim’s brother, Darrell Martin, told the BBC:
“The text message – think about how inane this is – it was about meeting his mate later and taking his dog for a walk. That’s what killed my brother.”
A lorry driver who fatally crashed into an off-duty police officer’s car in June 2014 was jailed on Monday.
Danny Warby, 28, received six years in prison after his 13.6-tonne vehicle hit Det Con Sharon Garrett in Cambridgeshire, seconds after he had opened a text message. Mrs Garrett was pronounced dead at the scene.
AA president Edmund King said of the increased penalties:
“This is radical. One text and you’re out. But if we are to change the attitudes of young drivers maybe it has to be that harsh.”
RAC road safety spokesman Pete Williams said it was important for people to see that laws were being enforced.
“The decline in the numbers of dedicated road traffic police has only heightened the feeling that those who use a handheld phone while driving simply get away with it,” he said.
Jayne Willetts, of the Police Federation of England and Wales, which represents rank-and-file officers, said:
“Police do actively target people using mobile phones when they are out on duty, but unfortunately, with fewer officers out on the roads, more of these offences are going undetected.”