Would automatic bans for drivers using mobiles finally prevent people from putting lives at risk on the roads?
The temptation is always there when driving, to glance away for a few seconds to check your phone that just vibrated or to answer a call you may think is extremely important. However, despite being a crime many still do it. Here Ben Marsden, an assistant solicitor with experience in dealing with road traffic collisions, writes about how stringent measures may cut down the number of collisions caused by drivers distracted by their phones.
It’s probably the driving offence now most commonly committed on the UK’s roads – using a mobile whilst behind the wheel.
Whether it be spending just a few seconds to answer a call, glancing at an incoming text, or more blatantly using a smartphone for social media or even to take pictures and videos, most people would find it hard to deny using their phone when driving at one time.
Over the past 10 years, more than 200 people have been killed in Britain in crashes involving drivers using hand-held mobile phones at the wheel.
The number of crashes in which phones have been involved is increasing, with almost 500 crashes caused by drivers who were using a hand-held phone in 2014, the highest number on record. Of those accidents, 21 proved fatal.
Accepted research has shown that drivers using any type of mobile phone – hands-free or not – are four times more likely to crash, injuring or killing themselves and other people.
However, it is a message which is largely ignored, as research recently conducted by our road accident claims team at Hudgell Solicitors has highlighted.
Asked which single new law would make the biggest difference to road safety in the UK, 45 per cent of respondents said an instant ban for being caught using a phone.
Interestingly, just 15 per cent thought a total ban on drinking alcohol before driving would result in less accidents on the roads.
In my view, these figures give an indication of acceptance that the law regarding mobile phone use is routinely broken. It suggests stronger punishments are needed to make drivers think, and not pick up their phone.
Without stronger punishments, many – and perhaps even those who consider themselves safe and considerate drivers – will take the risk.
Ministers last year announced plans which will see most first time offenders offered an educational course to learn about the risks of their behaviour after they are stopped by police.
Those who are ‘persistent offenders’ will face an increase from the current three penalty points to four, while fines will rise from £100 to £150.
The flaw here is that ‘first time offenders’, on the vast majority of occasions, will not be that. They’ll more likely be regular offenders who have been caught for the first time.
Also, why should there be such a thing as ‘persistent offenders’? Do we get persistent offenders of drink-driving being allowed to hold onto their licence? Certainly not.
I have previously written about my belief that such punishments are not strong enough, as I believe people currently do not associate the risk of being caught and punished for using a mobile anywhere near that of being caught drink-driving.
Unfortunately, we live in a world where many don’t think of the possible victims of their reckless actions, but more about the punishment they’ll face for breaking the law and causing injury to others.
It is with that in mind that I believe only much more serious punishments for mobile phone use will truly make a difference and improve safety on the roads.
At present, the punishment certainly doesn’t fit the crime, and that has to change.
"we live in a world where many don’t think of the possible victims of their reckless actions, but more about the punishment they’ll face for breaking the law and causing injury to others."
Did you mean to say "more about the punishment they'll face for breaking the law THAN causing injury to others"?
I have driven professionally for 40 years as a hgv road hauler. Banning mobile phones while driving might be a good idea to some.
New hgv lorries are 100 times worse then any mobile phone as they are now a bed on wheels. Automatic tricks are death traps as you just press a button and sit back. Using a mobile phone when you are nodding off at the wheel wakes you up.
Yep, you will all say if tired stop in the services for a quick kip. Hgv with unit and trailer are about 60feet long and all services day and night are swamped with drivers as well as our own.. I.e no parking spaces.
So you lot any ideas for hgv truck bed on wheels manufacturers?????