- Drivers could face a £150 fine and four points
- New penalties aim to target repeat offenders
- AA Insurance welcomes proposed changes
Company car drivers who use a mobile phone while driving could face tougher penalties - including larger fines and more penalty points - if government plans come into force.
Currently if you’re caught using a hand-held phone while driving or riding, you’ll receive three penalty points on your licence and a fine of £100; in more serious cases you could also be sent to court, face disqualification and a maximum fine of £1,000.
A consultation on the new plans, which will see drivers face an increased fine of £150 and four penalty points if approved, will be held in 2016.
The proposals form part of the government's Road Safety Plan and aim to target those who repeatedly offend. Most first-time offenders will still be offered an educational course.
Patrick McLoughlin, transport secretary, said: "Using a mobile phone at the wheel is reckless and costs lives - I want to see it become a social taboo like not wearing a seatbelt."
According to the government, the use of a mobile phone was a contributing factor in 21 fatal accidents and 84 serious accidents in 2014.
AA Insurance has hailed the proposed increase in penalties as a "victory for common sense".
Michael Lloyd, director of broker AA Insurance, said: “Drivers using a hand-held mobile phone are at four times greater risk of having a crash than a driver not using one and I’m delighted that the penalty will now better reflect the seriousness of this offence.
“While drivers may mistakenly exceed a speed limit, no-one uses a hand-held phone by mistake. It’s a deliberate act that seriously diverts attention from driving, significantly heightening the risk of a crash.”
AA-Populus research in 2015 revealed that 23 percent of more than 19,000 AA members admitted that they had been "distracted, had a near miss or a crash" in the previous 12 months while using or interacting in some way with a mobile phone or other mobile device.
AA members also ranked hand-held phone use, alongside tailgating, as the two most irritating and dangerous actions on the roads in a poll of 29,660 drivers in 2015.
Edmund King, AA president, added: “This epidemic of hand-held mobile phone use while driving has already cost lives and drivers have demanded action. Three quarters of drivers see others using mobile phones on some or most journeys, with one quarter seeing it on every journey, according to our polls."