One of the things that gets right up my nose is people using a mobile phone when driving – especially texting or using some app or other. I don’t have any personal data to back it up, but it seems to be more prevalent now if my own experience is anything to go by.
A recent RAC report seems to confirm it. This survey suggests a third of people regularly use a phone while driving – a significant increase since 2014. Around 14% even take photos or videos while at the wheel. Department for Transport figures show that a driver impaired or distracted by their phone was a contributory factor in 492 accidents in Britain in 2014, including 21 that were fatal and 84 classed as serious. Recently there have been some high profile cases where drivers have been imprisoned for causing deaths as a result of phone use. One jailed for nine years had at least six previous convictions for phone use. The victim’s brother was quoted “If you can’t live by a few rules that are not going to make you into a killer, then can you not drive please, because it’s not much to ask.” “Just put your phone down… the text message that killed my brother, the bloke was writing about going home to meet his mate and take his dog for a walk. That’s the end of my brother’s life… it’s pointless, absolutely pointless.”
Under new rules expected to come in next year, drivers will get six points on their licence and face a £200 fine. Newly qualified drivers could be made to retake their test the first time they are caught. Significant as the highest incidence of phone use is in the younger age group.
Campaigners point out that phone use is on a par with drink driving as far as risk is concerned, but even the new penalties are not equivalent. A more experienced driver caught using a phone for the second time will face a fine of £1000 and a 6 month ban. Drink driving is dealt with more harshly. Will the new penalties impact this problem and make mobile use as socially unacceptable as drink driving? Will the new rules be effectively enforced given the reduction in dedicated traffic officers? Time will tell.
John Norrie – Chairman