The government is considering proposals to increase fixed penalty fines from £100 to £150, as well as increasing the number of penalty points drivers receive from three to four. The last increase occurred in 2013, when the fixed penalty for using a hand-held mobile phone while driving rose from £60 to £100.
Drivers of large vehicles such as HGVs face a potential points increase from three to six. This larger increase for HGV drivers reflects the fact that accidents involving large vehicles tend to be more severe.
According to government statistics for 2014, 492 accidents were caused by drivers who were using hand-held phones, the highest number on record. Of those accidents, 21 resulted in fatalities and 84 in serious injuries. A total of 1,775 people were killed and 22,807 people were seriously injured in all reported road accidents in 2014.
In the past 10 years more than 205 people have been killed in Britain in accidents involving drivers using hand-held mobile phones at the wheel. The number of accidents in which phones have been involved has increased in recent years.
The proposals are part of the government's Road Safety Plan, to be published this week, and comes in the light of concerns about whether the current penalties act as an effective deterrent. A consultation will be held on the plans in 2016, with the main aim of targeting repeat offenders. Most first-time offenders will still be offered an educational course to help them change their behaviour. A government spokesman said the intention was to see it become a social taboo like not wearing a seatbelt.
Figures from the AA suggest that three quarters of drivers see others holding mobile phones while at the wheel on some or most of their journeys, with one quarter saying they witness this behaviour every time they take to the roads.
Although the proposals have been welcomed by a number of road safety groups, the Institute of Advanced Motorists said evidence shows previous increases in fines did not change driving behaviour. With cuts to the policing budget and fewer police vehicles on the roads, some argue that the deterrent is in fact being weakened as there is less likelihood of fines, regardless of the amount, being enforced.