Vera Baird

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Tougher stance on mobile phones

15th November 2016

In November, I welcomed a week long crackdown on motorists who use their mobile phones whilst driving, this follows the government announcement in November that they plan to double fines and points for using a mobile while driving.

The RAC survey in September had found that the number of motorists illegally using mobile phones while at the wheel was rising.

Of the motorists asked, 31% said they had used a handheld phone behind the wheel compared with 8% in 2014.  This statistic is very worrying, drivers need to concentrate on driving, I hope this campaign week will reinforce to drivers the importance of taking care at the wheel of the car.  Drivers need to be focused on the road and not on their call, what may be a 20 second call could potentially cause devastating effects.

The easiest way to stay in control of the road and to avoid temptation is to keep your mobile phone off whilst in the car.  Here in Northumbria, the Chief Constable and I are working hard to reduce traffic accidents, our motor patrol team will continue to do all they can to keep roads safe and use all laws available to help them do so.

From 2017 taking a short call at the wheel or quickly checking your texts will have far greater consequences, particularly for anyone with existing points on their licence as they will suddenly be much closer to having their licence taken away. For new drivers a prosecution will mean instant disqualification as they only need six points within two years of gaining their licence to have it revoked by the DVLA.

RAC road safety spokesman Pete Williams said: “We welcome stiffer penalties for handheld mobile phone use and believe this will send a very strong message to motorists. However, we believe this has to be done in conjunction with a heavyweight road safety campaign so we therefore welcome initial proposals for a new THINK! initiative. The RAC’s Report on Motoring 2016 identified that the problem is at epidemic proportions as almost half (48%) of motorists admitted to using a handheld phone at the wheel to talk, text or use other apps in the last year. Many drivers might be surprised that the Government is proposing doing away with the option for offenders to take a mobile phone awareness course. Police forces have been using such courses as an option and alternative to points and fines which demonstrates that they believe there is a need for better education of the risks and dangers. They are the ones tasked with enforcement when challenged with diminishing budgets so we would be interested if they believe that this approach will succeed.