Drivers to be hit by new phone penalties

WILL nothing stop them?Today is the day that tougher penalties are being launched targeting those who talk on their mobile phone at the wheel - but Suffolk drivers do not seem to care.

Today is the day that tougher penalties are being launched targeting those who talk on their mobile phone at the wheel - but safety campaigners are sceptical whether drivers will take notice.

Road safety charity Brake says it believes the penalties will do little to deter drivers from using their mobile illegally.

The charity recommended the fine be raised to £1,000 and that police should be given the power to confiscate mobile phones.

Brake also wants to see the law extended to include hands-free mobile phones, which, it claims, are just as distracting as hand-held mobiles.

The charity said government statistics showed that in Great Britain during 2005, 13 deaths and more than 400 injuries resulted from crashes involving drivers using hand-held mobile phones.

Jools Townsend, head of education at Brake, said: “Driving is the most dangerous activity most of us do on a daily basis, and requires complete concentration.

Most Read

“Mobile phones continue to cause deaths and injuries on our roads, and while we are glad the penalty has been increased, the new penalties do not go far enough.”

This winter the Star launched its Light Up, Belt Up, Shut Up campaign to encourage people to keep safe on the roads and prevent accidents.

Between July 2005 and June 2006, 2,264 drivers in Suffolk were issued with fixed penalty notices for talking on phones while driving. The figure rose by 65 per cent from the same period the year before.

Despite Brake's concerns, The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) today welcomed the changes - and warned employers to be sure they are not falling foul of the law.

Kevin Clinton, RoSPA head of road safety, said: “Far too many motorists have been ignoring the mobile phone law and risking their own lives and those of others on the roads around them.

“We believe the threat of points on a licence and an increased fine will give this legislation new teeth, because those irresponsible people, who think their call is more important than someone's life, are likely to take the threat to their licence more seriously.

What do you think of the increased penalty? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail