UK wants harsher fines for yakking while driving

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Words: Nile Bijoux
14 Aug 2019

A group of UK MPs called the Transport Committee has called for the ban on drivers using handheld devices to be extended to hands-free devices, along with tougher enforcement.

Around 773 road deaths in the UK throughout 2017 were linked to device usage behind the wheel, with that number rising steadily since 2011. As a result, the Committee says harsher penalties and a stricter ban are both needed.

At the moment, drivers caught using mobile phones will receive six demerit points and a £200 ($NZ373) fine. Both the fine and the demerits are under review.

The chair of the Committee, Lilian Greenwood, said that, despite the huge risk, drivers are still flouting the law by using hand-held devices.

“If mobile phone use while driving is to become as socially unacceptable as drink-driving, much more effort needs to go into educating drivers about the risks and consequences of using a phone behind the wheel. Offenders also need to know there is a credible risk of being caught, and that there are serious consequences for being caught.”

She added: “There is also a misleading impression that hands-free use is safe. The reality is that any use of a phone distracts from a driver’s ability to pay full attention, and the Government should consider extending the ban to reflect this.”

As for New Zealand, the current penalties are an $80 fine and 20 demerit points. Drivers can use a mobile phone to make a call while driving only if it is an emergency situation and unsafe or impracticable to stop the vehicle to make the call.

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