‘Text and talk’ drivers will get bigger fines

On the spot fines go up on Friday for drivers who risk life and limb while using a handheld mobile.
On the spot fines go up on Friday for drivers who risk life and limb while using a handheld mobile.
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South Holland drivers are among hundreds in the county taking the risk of driving while using mobile phones – making it four times more likely they will be in a death or injury crash.

On Friday the fixed penalty ticket for using handheld mobiles will leap from £60 to £100.

But road safety charity Brake says the higher penalty may not be enough to deter drivers from risking lives and flouting the law.

Brake campaigns officer Siobhan MacMahon said: “It is deeply concerning that so many drivers are engaging in such dangerous behaviour.

“Drivers who talk on the phone – whether it’s handheld or hands free – are four times more likely to be in a crash that causes death or injury.

“Brake welcomes the increase in fixed penalty fines, but £100 is not enough to pose a strong deterrent to potentially life-threatening behaviour.”

Lincolnshire Police dealt with 1,812 mobile phone offences in 2011 and 1,523 last year.

Up to the end of July this year another 927 drivers were caught behind the wheel while using their phones.

Lincolnshire roads policing inspector Rob Gowler said: “Use of a mobile phone whilst driving is irresponsible and just as dangerous as drink-driving or not wearing a seatbelt.

“The number of offences over the last few years has remained consistent and it appears that people are still continuing to disregard their own safety and that of others by talking or texting on the phone while driving.”

When investigating road crashes, police routinely check drivers’ phones to see if drivers were distracted – and Insp Gowler says that can lead to prosecutions for causing death by dangerous driving in the most serious cases.

While hands-free kits are currently legal, both Brake and police say it is the level of distraction that leads to road accidents and advise motorists to switch off their phones while driving to cut the risk.

Insp Gowler said: “When investigating a serious or fatal road traffic collision, the distraction caused by using a mobile phone will be seen as an aggravating factor and could ultimately lead to an increase in the seriousness of the offence as well as an increase in sentence if found guilty.

“The best advice is not to use the phone at all while driving.

“Switch it off and let it go to voicemail.”

• Fixed penalty tickets also carry three penalty points for drivers’ licences.