Under changes to the law, 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.
From Wednesday 8 March, there will be a change in policy across both Thames Valley and Hampshire so that the NDORS (National Driver Offender Retraining Scheme) awareness course will no longer be routinely offered as an alternative to a fixed penalty notice. Officers will use their discretion as to whether, in exceptional circumstances, a course is appropriate.
However, during the weeklong enforcement campaign, anybody caught driving while using their handheld phone will receive a fixed penalty notice and there will be no option to undertake an NDORS (National Driver Offender Retraining Scheme) awareness course as an alternative to prosecution.
Between 1 January 2014 and 30 September 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 across both Forces, 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.
“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.”
The new law is explained below
•What is classed as illegally using a handheld mobile phone?
Scrolling through emails or texts, selecting music tracks to play, making or receiving phone calls or text messages, taking photos are all examples of illegally using a handheld mobile phone.
•How can I legally use my mobile phone while driving?
The only time it is legal to use a mobile phone while driving is when it is properly fitted into a handsfree kit which enables its use without you holding the phone and operating the device. From a safety perspective it’s best to turn it off and concentrate on your driving.
Launch of BePhoneSmart.ukThames Valley Police and Hampshire Constabulary 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
The TVP / Hampshire road safety hashtag is #ItsNotWorthTheRisk