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Phone fines for drivers

PUBLISHED: 19:55 24 June 2003 | UPDATED: 14:02 03 March 2010

DRIVERS using mobile phones at the wheel will face fines of up to £1,000, the Government announced today.

Offenders will be subject to a £30 fine which can be increased to a maximum of £1,000 if the case goes to court, Road Safety Minister David Jamieson said.

DRIVERS using mobile phones at the wheel will face fines of up to £1,000, the Government announced today.

Offenders will be subject to a £30 fine which can be increased to a maximum of £1,000 if the case goes to court, Road Safety Minister David Jamieson said.

The new offence will take effect from December 1 this year.

The Government is also planning to make it an endorsable offence, so drivers will get three points on their licence each time they are caught holding a phone.

The Evening Star launched a campaign to highlight the dangers of phoning and talking last September.

In just two hours beside a town centre roundabout our photographers pictured 19 drivers using mobile phones while at the wheel.

Introducing the fines, Mr Jamieson said: "Driving whilst using a mobile phone is dangerous.

"It affects the ability to concentrate and anticipate the road ahead, putting the driver and other road users at risk.

"Our decision to introduce this new offence will make the roads safer for us all.

"Missing a call won't kill you, an accident quite possibly could."

Research has shown that driving and using a mobile phone meant motorists are four times more likely to have an accident, he said.

Hands-free calls were also distracting and still put drivers at risk, he added.

Drivers already face prosecution for careless or even reckless driving if using of a phone means they do not have proper control of their vehicle.

The Government said it had carried out a consultation exercise in which 88% of the 1,000 responses were in favour of introducing a new offence of using a mobile phone at the wheel.

Drivers in Ipswich said today they were in favour of the legislation.

Sandra Smith, 47, from St Aubyns Road, Ipswich, said: "I completely agree with it. I've been behind people driving with phones and they are all over the place. I've got a mobile but I always pull over."

Matthew Emsden, 22, from Saxmundham, said: "I think it's a good idea and I think the £30 fine is probably about the right cost to prevent people from doing it again.

"I think the main problems come when people start texting, rather than just talking, while they are driving."

Richard Lacy, 53, from Edwardstone, said: "Generally, I don't think mobile phones should be used behind the wheel but there are times when I think it is ok, for instance, if you are stuck in a traffic jam."

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) welcomed the move but warned that motorists should not start using hands-free sets thinking they are safe.

It said drivers should be banned from using hands-free phones as well.

RoSPA claimed thousands of accidents have been caused by people talking on the phone, including 20 deaths. Hands-free phones were being used in at least two of those tragedies, it said.

Kevin Clinton, RoSPA head of road safety, said: "We are delighted to see a new law, but it will not have the impact we have been hoping for if people switch to hands-free devices instead.

"It is the telephone conversation that is the main problem.

"People are drawn into the conversation and ignore what is happening on the road around them.

"They vary their speed, drive closer to other vehicles, wander about on the road and their reactions are slower.

"People should switch off their phones when they get into their vehicles and not use them again until they are parked in a safe spot - as the Highway Code advises."

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