Thames Valley Police issue warning to drivers as new laws come into force

Penalties for driving while using a mobile have doubled

Penalties for driving while using a mobile have doubled

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Thames Valley Police will no longer routinely offer a driver awareness course as an alternative to a fixed penalty notice when drivers are caught using mobile phones from March 8.

The new policy will go into operation a week after new national laws are introduced in relation to drivers caught using handheld devices while in charge of a vehicle.

Under the new laws, offenders using a handheld device while driving will receive a fixed penalty notice resulting in six points on their driving licence and a £200 fine. Previously, this offence had incurred three points and £100 fine.

Any offenders aged under 21 who have held a licence for two years or less will automatically lose their licence.

Between January 1 2014 and September 30 2016, there were 145 collisions across Thames Valley where the use of a mobile phone while driving may have been a contributory factor. Eleven people died and 195 people were injured.

During the same period, a total of 29,564 tickets were issued to drivers found to be using a mobile device while driving.

Supt Simon Dodds, head of the joint roads policing unit, said: “There is never an excuse for someone to be using their mobile phone while driving and this change in legislation sends a clear message that it will not be tolerated.

“To coincide with this change, we will no longer routinely offer the Driver Awareness courses as an alternative to points and a fine.

“The increased penalties better reflect the seriousness of such driver behaviour, and the consequences it can have.

“All too often, my officers are faced with the devastation caused by motorists who persist on ignoring the dangers and drive while using their handheld phone.

“Lives are tragically lost and families are destroyed by the irresponsible decision to take a call on a handheld device, send a text, or search for music while driving

“The safest way is to put down your phone, switch it to silent and place it out of sight to ensure that you will not be tempted to pick it up.

He added: “Using your mobile phone while driving needs to be considered to be as socially unacceptable as drink/drug-driving, because the consequences can be fatal. The message is simple - don’t use your mobile phone while driving - it’s not worth the risk.”

Thames Valley Police are supporting the RAC’s new website, BePhoneSmart.uk, which gives drivers the chance to make a promise - to themselves, their family and friends and their employer - that they won’t use a handheld phone while driving.

With the support of the National Police Chiefs Council and the THINK! road safety campaign, drivers who make the promise can share it across their social media profiles and, in doing so, encourage others to do the same. There is also an option for them to upload a photo of themselves, add the Be Phone Smart logo and share this quickly and easily using the hashtag #BePhoneSmart