Starting March 1 UK drivers will be facing much harsher penalties for using their phones while driving.
The fixed penalty notice for using a phone while driving will double from £100 to £200 and refusal to pay could result in offenders being taken to court. Court fines could be up to £1,000, or £2,500 for bus and goods vehicle drivers.
The number of points applied to the offending driver’s license will also double from three to six. This means that drivers less than two years from passing their test will lose their licenses immediately.
These new penalties will apply even if you're only seen using a phone while driving. If your driving is found to be dangerous or you're involved in a crash while using a mobile phone you could face further prosecution with higher fines and perhaps imprisonment.
While it's an offence to be seen using a hand held phone, regardless of whether driving has been affected, it's a different matter when it comes to hands-free phones.
You can still use hands-free phones without prosecution. However, if you're seen to not be in control of your car while using it you can face a £100 fine and 3 points on your license.
Though it’s been illegal in the UK to use a hand-held device while driving or while stopped with your car engine running since 2013, the AA found that doing so is still considered more socially acceptable than driving under the influence of alcohol among younger drivers.
In a poll of over 17,000 British drivers, the AA found that 51 percent of 18-to-24 year olds won’t turn off their phones before they start driving and 47 percent of them believe driving after drinking is more likely to cause an accident.
According to the AA you’re actually twice as likely to crash if you text while driving than you are if you have a drink before you drive.
Despite the awareness that text driving is dangerous, however, they say there are still a number of high profile court cases involving drivers who have caused death and serious injuries as a result of using their smartphone while driving.
The government has implemented these penalty changes in order to back the AA’s campaign to raise further awareness about the dangers of using our phones while driving.
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Emma Boyle is TechRadar’s ex-Gaming Editor, and is now a content developer and freelance journalist. She has written for magazines and websites including T3, Stuff and The Independent. Emma currently works as a Content Developer in Edinburgh.