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September 15th 2016

Jane Woodcock

Tougher sentences now a must as mobile phone use by drivers reaches ‘epidemic proportions’

Jane Woodcock

Jane Woodcock

Senior Legal Executive and Head of Personal Injury

Tougher sentences now a must as mobile phone use by drivers reaches ‘epidemic proportions’

New research has revealed the shocking and ever-increasing problem of mobile phone use by drivers, highlighting the disregard many have for safety – and the law – when behind the wheel.

New research has revealed the shocking and ever-increasing problem of mobile phone use by drivers, highlighting the disregard many have for safety – and the law – when behind the wheel.

A major RAC study has revealed almost half of drivers admit to using a handheld mobile phone when in stationary traffic – with almost a third saying they have made a call whilst driving.

Almost one in five (19%) admitted to having sent a text, emailed or even posted on social media such as Facebook or Twitter whilst moving, a figure which is as high as 37 per cent in stationary traffic.

Close to a quarter (22%) admitted taking a photograph behind the wheel when in stationary traffic.

These statistics are truly shocking, particularly as some of the excuses given by those questioned were that they were simply ‘in the habit’ of using their phone, that ‘everyone else does it’ and that they ‘ knew they could get away with it’.

If anything, these new stats are probably not even a true reflection of the scale of law breaking, as I would imagine that many people won’t admit to breaking the law in such a way when questioned as part of a survey, even if they do use their phone behind the wheel.

So, what is the problem?

The issue certainly isn’t a lack of awareness of the dangers. I simply refuse to accept that drivers in this day and age, with all the media coverage and campaigns, are unaware of the dangers when taking their eyes of the road and looking at their phone.

The problem surely is the lack of appropriate punishment for doing so.

It is too easy to think the biggest punishment for being caught will be a £100 fine, and a possible three points on a licence, which is the current deterrent for drivers. Some drivers currently even get away with going on a course.

Given motorists only face a ban when collecting 12 points on a licence, the current law is effectively saying drivers can get away with being caught using their phones three times before facing serious consequences. How on earth can this be right?

Today, the national Daily Mail has launched a campaign for much tougher deterrents to end what it has called the ‘mobile madness’.

It has been backed by families who have lost loved ones as a result of drivers using their phones, and given that more than 200 Britons have been killed in the past 10 years by drivers distracted by their phones, it is a call surely anybody would be hard to argue against.

In 2014, 492 accidents were blamed on phone use, with 21 people killed and 84 suffering serious injuries.

In our work handling road traffic injury compensation claims, our personal injury specialists at Hudgell Solicitors see day to day the devastating impact on families.

Impacts of Road Traffic Accidents

Road traffic accidents can not only take a loved one away, but can cause catastrophic, life-changing injuries which leave victims not only needing full support and often adaptations to their homes to cope, but also massively impact on the lives of those around them long term.

Pete Williams, RAC road safety spokesman, says illegal driving behaviour is now at ‘epidemic proportions’ due to this increasing problem, and sadly it is hard to disagree.

We have previously supported road safety charity Brake in its calls for fines to be increased to a minimum of £500 and for offenders to receive six points on their licence.

This would mean they could be banned from driving if caught twice, and hopefully the influence of one of the country’s biggest news organisations can help bring about a much needed law change.

Respected scientific research has concluded that driver reaction times slow by up to a third when talking on phones, and by even more if they are texting, and that motorists are so distracted by calls and messages that they drive as dangerously as those who are over the legal alcohol limit.

Drinking and driving is now an offence that is completely socially unacceptable. We all know the dangers, the punishments are severe, and we simply don’t accept it amongst friends or family.

The same now has to happen with regard to mobile use behind the wheel, and the law must reflect the total devastation it can cause.

Unless there is serious change, the number of avoidable deaths caused will continue to rise year after year.

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