First published in the Evening Times on 02/03/17 (in print and online – available here.)
Drivers are continuing to risk lives by using mobile phones behind the wheel – despite tougher penalties imposed.
Penalties and fines for motorists flouting the law have been doubled to six points and £200 respectively yesterday.
But drivers have been caught out making calls and texting while driving on our motorways despite a countrywide crackdown.
A number of drivers using devices were captured on camera driving on the M8 in Glasgow and around the city.
Police forces are carrying out a seven-day campaign with extra patrols and an “increased focus” on catching drivers using handheld phones.
We took to the streets to find out what people thought and the move gained the support of Evening Times readers.
Here’s what our readers thought:
Rhiannon Coats, 17, Glasgow, student:
“I think it’s right.
“I think a lot of people use their phones in their car now.
“I don’t think it’s fair [new drivers loosing licence] but the fine is definitely good.”
Natalie Reid, 23, Glasgow, student:
“You see so many people sitting on their phones at traffic lights and stuff and it’s ridiculous because they’re too busy on their phones and they don’t realise that the lights have went green.
“I don’t even think that you should have Bluetooth ones either because if someone is talking in your ear you’re not focusing completely.
“You should only really be focusing solely on the road, you shouldn’t be focusing on what someone is saying to you.
“I think it will discourage people especially if there is more people enforcing it and noticing it whereas if there’s not really anyone there to see it then people will probably just keep thinking that they can get away with it.
“If they get caught first time, then they’ll probably think not to do it.”
Anthony Hughes, 31, Whiteinch, self-employed:
“I think it’s very appropriate.
“It’s causing more crashes, causing more harm to people just for their own convenience.
“So I don’t think it’s harsh, I think it’s pretty fair to be honest.
“Hopefully it will discourage people but only time will tell, because the laws came in and people are still using their phones so hopefully more harsh laws will discourage them.”
Alieen Patterson, 67, outskirts of Glasgow, pensioner:
“I wonder whether perhaps it will make much difference.
“I know that if you’re young and you’ve only had your licence less than two years you can lose your licence.
“I think that you’ll probably find that young people will drive without a licence, I hate to say.
“And it’s not something that’s easy to enforce unless the police are stopping them and I don’t think that’s always an easy thing to be able to do.
“I think that it also should apply to hands-free too.”
David Miller, 60, Orkney:
“I’m in favour of it but I find it difficult to see how they’re going to be able to police it.
“Because you see people driving around using their mobile phones all the time and you see very few people being prosecuted for it at the moment so I don’t know how they can actually carry it out.
“I don’t think it’s severe enough.”
Alan Pearson, 32, Milngavie:
“I think it’s a good idea, there’s no excuse for driving and using a mobile phone.
“People will still want to do it for some reason but hopefully it’s a deterrent, especially the law that’s going to affect young drivers.
“It’s going to make it a normality that it’s a really bad thing to do.”
Around 3,600 motorists were handed penalties during a similar initiative last month.
Until yesterday, drivers previously stopped while using a mobile phone were issued with three penalty points on their licence and a £100 fine.
In more serious cases, cops also have powers to prosecute drivers for careless or dangerous driving.
Neil Greig, Director of Policy and Research at the Institute of Advanced Drivers, said the new law sends a “strong message” to drivers — but warned imposing harsher fines was simply not enough.
He said: “It sends a strong message that mobile phone use while driving is unacceptable, but increasing the penalties won’t work.
“We need more police enforcing the law, as there have been cuts in traffic policing and people think they can get away with it.
“Employers should take measures so that people can’t be forced to use their phones in the cars for work.
“Car manufacturers and software developers should also create solutions to prevent phones from being used.”
Twenty-two people were killed and 99 seriously injured in accidents on Britain’s roads in 2015 where a motorist using a mobile was a contributory factor, latest figures show.
Chief Superintendent Andy Edmonston, Head of Road Policing for Police Scotland, said: “The risks associated with using a phone while behind the wheel have always been very clear.
“Any driver will be distracted by a phone call or text message as it affects the ability to concentrate and anticipate the road ahead, putting the driver and other road users at risk.
“Distraction reduces hazard perception and increases reaction times in a similar way to drink-driving, making drivers much more likely to cause deaths and injuries.
“Drivers who think they can multi-task are fooling themselves: research shows 98% are unable to divide their time without it affecting performance.
“Talking on a phone hand-held or hands free, texting, emailing, adjusting sat navs, eating, drinking and smoking are all proven to increase crash risk.
“The law says a driver must at all times be in proper control of their vehicle. If at any time they are not they may be guilty of an offence.
“Police Scotland consistently targets these offences on a daily basis to reduce road casualties and will deal with offences detected in an appropriate manner.
“We are using this change in the law to, once again, remind drivers that using a mobile phone while driving has always been unacceptable and even careful drivers can be distracted by a call or text – and a split-second lapse in concentration could result in a serious or fatal collision.”