Stronger penalties required for texting drivers, says IAM

18th September 2013

The Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) has called on the government to increase the penalties applied to drivers who are convicted of causing death by dangerous driving as they were using their mobile phones to text while behind the wheel of a vehicle.

According to the organisation's analysis of 11 recent prosecutions involving the use of mobiles and smartphones, the average sentence handed down for the offence is four-and-a-half years in prison and a disqualification from driving for seven years.

From the analysis, a loss of concentration led to six incidents where drivers ran into the back of stationary or slow moving traffic or a broken down vehicle.

Three collisions occurred when vehicles drifted across the road and hit another vehicle head-on, with the final two incidents leading to the death of a pedestrian.

IAM chief executive Simon Best said that the maximum sentence available to the courts of 14 years needs to be increased so that an even stronger road safety message can be delivered to motorists who continue to pick up their mobile phones and smartphones while behind the wheel of a vehicle.

"The lesson here is obvious: never use your phone while driving. Whether you have a hands free kit or use loudspeaker, it doesn’t matter. Using your phone in any capacity reduces your attention from the task at hand – driving," he explained.

Driver polls regularly reveal that motorists are aware of the dangers of using their mobile devices while driving and many want penalties to increase.

However, since 2006, 750,000 fixed penalties have been issued to motorists for this very offence, indicating that the punishments may not be enough to prevent the problem in the UK.

A recent AA study revealed that 16.7 per cent of men and 16.5 per cent of women admit to using their mobile while driving, however 80 per cent of motorists have witnessed a fellow driver doing so at least once a day.

The disparity once again shows that drivers are aware they should not be picking up their phone while behind the wheel.