On the same day as new, stricter penalties came into force for using a mobile phone while driving, scores of motorists were caught doing just that, and handed penalties and fines – now set at 6 points and £200. Vanarama Content Editor Tom Roberts reports.
By noon on Wednesday, police forces were reporting they had stopped 31 drivers in Dorset, 20 in Kent, 11 by Thames Valley Police, and in one of the best examples of irony in the history of the world a journalist on his way to cover the launch of the penalties was caught red-handed.
What are the penalties for using a mobile phone while driving?
Quite simple really: Right now – as of 1st March – motorists caught using their phone will be fined up to £200 – up from the previous £100 – and automatically receive six penalty points on their licence.
The conviction is legally known as a CU80 driving offence, and significantly affects insurance premiums, even leading to insurers potentially refusing to cover a driver who has received this penalty.
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said increasing fixed penalties will be a "strong deterrent".
New drivers could be the hardest hit by the new penalties
Young and inexperienced drivers are being warned that just one mistake – using a mobile phone – could mean their licence being taken away. Simply put, anyone who is caught within two years of passing their test will have their licence revoked immediately.
If this happens they will have to apply and pay for a new provisional licence, and pass both the theory and practical parts of your test all over again – a not insignificant additional cost.
Caught red-handed – three days in
Some of the stories already emerging show just how common an offence using a mobile phone while driving is. One of those drivers caught on the first day was at the wheel of a 7.5 tonne lorry using his phone while travelling around a roundabout in the Bournemouth area.
Norfolk Police also Tweeted that the same day it had stopped 11 drivers on their phones in 90 minutes. In the South East, more than 20 motoring offences were detected by officers from Kent's Roads Policing Unit in the morning. Of these, 12 drivers were stopped for using their phones, four for not being in proper control of their vehicle and four for driving at excess speed.
A driver who appeared to be talking to a parrot perched on the steering wheel was also stopped after his van was spotted swerving between lanes on the M20, the force said.Thames Valley Police reported that it had already stopped 11 people for using phones, including two new drivers, in its first patrol of the day. It also stopped five people for not wearing seat belts.
Other police forces are expected to release figures at the end of the week-long national crackdown, but it's know that around 3,600 motorists were handed penalties during a similar enforcement period last month.