Jail threat to mobile drivers

LEGAL changes coming into force next week will clarify the widely-flouted laws on using mobile phones at the wheel, it emerged today.

LEGAL changes coming into force next week will clarify the widely-flouted laws on using mobile phones at the wheel, it emerged today.

Motorists will know that should they cause a fatal accident, using their phone at the time - whether hands-free or not - could make the difference between going to jail for up to five years or receiving a community sentence.

The Evening Star has already launched its own bid to tackle the epidemic with its Light Up, Belt Up, Shut Up campaign.

In 2007, 3,033 drivers were caught using a mobile phone while behind the wheel in Suffolk.


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Guidance by the Sentencing Guidelines Council (SGC) on the new offence of causing death by careless driving will come into effect on Monday.

It states that drivers who kill someone while “avoidably distracted” are more culpable and should face tougher sentences, including jail.

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The definition of “avoidably distracted” includes briefly reading a text message or adjusting a hands-free set.

Reading or composing text messages over a period of time will be regarded as a “gross avoidable distraction”, leading to an even tougher sentence.

Holding a handset while driving has been illegal since 2003, and the penalties for using a non hands-free phone were increased in February last year to a £60 fine plus three penalty points.

According to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, drivers who use a mobile phone - whether hand-held or hands-free - are four times more likely to crash.

Research indicates that they are much less aware of what's happening on the road around them, slower to react, fail to see road signs and more likely to tailgate.

New SGC guidelines on the more serious offence of causing death by dangerous driving came into force on August 4, but the new measures on “death by careless” only become active on Monday, the date the legislation is enacted by the Ministry of Justice.

Should punishments for those who use mobile phones when driving be more severe? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

See opinion, page four.

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