British drivers who text and call whilst in the driver’s seat are set to face harsher treatment under new government plans.
New rules to be introduced next year will reflect the results of academic research that calls for better recording of collisions where phones are involved and for police offers to be able to seize devices found at crash scenes.
Distracted drivers caught using handheld devices will, under new rules that extend to tablets as well as phones, face “much tougher penalties” including six points on their driving licence and a fine of £200.
Current legislation allows the police to serve offenders with a £100 fine and a three-point penalty.
The new rules will also see those who have only recently qualified to drive potentially be forced to retake their entire driving test if caught.
Speaking on the new measures, transport minister Chris Grayling said: “As technology develops, mobile phones are commonplace, but we need to take responsibility for our actions and as drink or drug driving has become socially unacceptable, so must using mobile phones at the wheel.”
Not only handheld devices have come under scrutiny this year, however, as research from the Open University and the University of Sussex undertaken in June found that drivers speaking via a hands-free device detected fewer road hazards than those who were not on the phone at all.
The researchers from the universities said: “Compared to undistracted participants, dual-taskers were slower to respond to hazards; detected fewer hazards; committed more “looked but failed to see” errors; and demonstrated ‘visual tunnelling’,” the researchers from the university wrote.
“Telephone conversations may interfere with driving performance because the two tasks compete for similar processing resources, due to the imagery-evoking aspects of phone use.”
In light of such results, some campaigners feel the recently revealed new measures are still not as harsh as they ought to be.
How the laws surrounding mobile phone usage whilst driving will develop cannot be guessed, but for now the government feels that hand-free calling should remain legal. To ensure you are on the right side of the law, make sure to check that your car’s technology allows hands-free calling that won’t result in the increased £200 fine and six-point penalty.