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Lincolnshire Talks: Do we need even tougher penalties for drivers using mobile phones behind the wheel?

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Tougher penalties will be introduced later this year for using a mobile phone while driving. But does even more need to be done to deter motorists from the temptation of using their phone behind the wheel?

From March 1, motorists will receive six points on their driving licence and a £200 fine.

They will also no longer be offered the opportunity to go on a driver awareness course.

Young drivers will particularly be affected by the changes, as they risk having their licence revoked following a first offence.

These changes will have a significant impact on young drivers in particular as they risk having their driving licence revoked following a first offence.

Both Lincolnshire and Humberside Police believe that the tougher penalties will have a significant impact, and have been championing the campaign to raise awareness this week.

John Siddle, from the Lincolnshire Road Safety Partnership, said: “The offence of using a mobile phone whilst driving has long been in place yet some drivers feel their call is more important than the safety of other road users.

“Drivers behaving this way are often in the news when tragedy strikes and families are affected but drivers still believe it will not happen to them until it does.

“It is hoped that the new penalties, of six points and £200, will deter those drivers who put so much at risk.”

Road safety charity Brake has welcomed the crackdown, pointing to some worrying statistics it has compiled as a reason for supporting the tougher penalties.

Data produced by the charity has revealed that 55% of 25-34 year old drivers questioned during a survey admitted they had sent or read a text message on their mobile, while behind the wheel of their car, in the last year.

Despite it being illegal to use a hand-held mobile phone at all while driving, more than four in 10 (42%) revealed they send or read messages at least once a week.

One in five young drivers (18-24) confirmed they regularly text and/or instant message when they are behind the wheel.

Just under half of drivers (49%) aged 25-34 admitted they sometimes go online or use apps (other than sat nav apps) while driving. Almost a third of drivers in that age group said they do that several times a week at least.

Gary Rae, campaigns director for Brake, said: “We welcome this crackdown by police forces. The law needs to be much tougher with this type of offence, which appears to be growing in numbers.

“Younger drivers, especially those aged between 25 and 34, simply aren’t getting the message about the dangers of using a mobile phone while driving.

“Doing any other complex task while driving hugely increases your chance of crashing.

“These drivers are putting their own and other people’s lives in grave danger by taking this risk.

“If a phone has to be used as a sat nav, it must be programmed before setting off on the journey and properly secured. There is no other acceptable way to use a phone while driving.”