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Minister warns of tougher penalties for those caught texting at the wheel

Minister warns of tougher penalties for those caught texting at the wheel

The transport secretary has warned those tempted to text or make a phone call while driving that they will face tougher punishments in the future.

Speaking at a road safety conference in London, Patrick McLoughlin said that fines for such offences would increase to £90, though critics have suggested that the move will have little effect if it is not backed with tougher enforcement. The government intends to increase the fixed penalty for using a hand-held device at the wheel from £60 to £90 and this will also be the fixed fee for other offences such as speeding and driving through a red light.

In addition, the minister announced there will also be a new fixed penalty of £90 along with three penalty points for careless driving which could include eating or applying make-up while driving, cutting up other drivers or hogging the middle lane. The government says that three penalty points will be incurred for such offences despite calls for this to be increased to six. Mr McLoughlin also said that new drug-driving laws would be brought in, though the drink-drive limit will not be lowered as is being proposed by the Scottish government.

Figures show that over a million drivers have been convicted of using a hand-held mobile phone since it was made illegal in 2003 but a recent poll, from the AA and Populus, found that 42% of drivers admit still using them illegally and 20% admit having sent a text while behind the wheel. Additional research conducted by Which? found that using a phone for texting or using social media sites led to a 79% drop in the driver’s attention – far worse than a person at the drink-drive limit.

Mr McLoughlin admitted that he had himself used a mobile phone while driving, but would not do so again and believed in time it would become as socially unacceptable as drink-driving. He added that the government wanted to send a clear message to dangerous drivers, that they will be caught and punished if they continued to show a disregard for the safety of other road users.

Earlier in the year Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, the new Metropolitan Police commissioner, said that those caught using a hand-held phone while driving should receive a six-point penalty on their licence, so that a second offence would lead to a ban.