New government regulations expected to come into force this year mean drivers caught texting at the wheel will face much tougher consequences.
With mobile phones being the hub of our daily lives, many – not just the young – can’t get through the day without their device. We will all know someone who just can’t ignore the sound of a text, needing to look immediately and to send a reply. It doesn’t matter what they are doing, even if it’s driving.
78% of crashes involve the person behind the steering wheel being preoccupied with other activities1. Not only is texting a common cause of this preoccupation, but also has a significant impact on reaction times, which are 35% slower if texting whilst driving2. This is a greater impact than driving under the influence of cannabis (21%) and nearly three times more than driving at the legal drink limit (12%). In fact, the likelihood of crashing while on the phone is increased by a factor of four.
Under new rules due to come into force in early 2017, drivers will receive six points on their licence and face a £200 fine if caught. This means new drivers will be made to retake their test if caught within two years of gaining their full licence. The new rules will apply in England, Wales and Scotland and could also mean drivers who offend twice going to court, facing possible fines of up to £1,000 and a six-month driving ban.
If prosecuted for careless or dangerous driving even higher penalties will apply (death by dangerous driving carries a maximum sentence of 14 years in prison).
The only times it is permissible to use a phone whilst driving are:
- calling 999 or 112 in an emergency where it is unsafe or impractical to stop, or
- if the vehicle is safely parked.
Hands-free phones can be used unless the police believe it is causing driver distraction and loss of control – this also applies to other devices like sat nav systems or car radios.
1 Allianz Center for Technology, AZT
Image source (CC BY-SA 2.0)