Tougher penalties for drivers caught using mobile phones at the wheel have been welcomed by a leading motor insurance broker.
AA Insurance has described the increase in fixed penalty charges and penalty points as “a victory for common sense.”
Drivers face a £150 fine and four points – up from £100 and three points – as the Government looks to tighten up on the use of hand-held phones while on the move.
“Drivers using a hand-held mobile phone are at four times greater risk of having a crash than a driver not using one,” said Michael Lloyd, director of AA Insurance, who said the Government was finally catching up with the insurance industry’s view of phone use.
“I’m delighted that the penalty will now better reflect the seriousness of this offence.
“Insurers already reflect this in the premiums of offenders who can expect an average premium increase twice that imposed for a speeding conviction.
“While drivers may mistakenly exceed a speed limit, no-one uses a handheld phone by mistake. It’s a deliberate act that seriously diverts attention from driving, significantly heightening the risk of a crash.”
Insurers now routinely increase premiums for drivers prosecuted for using their phone. At present the court penalties are the same for those caught speeding.
A survey of eight insurance companies by AA found that while premiums rose by an average of 12.2 per cent for motorists convicted of speeding, those found guilty of using a mobile at the wheel suffered increases of more than 25 per cent.
Mr Lloyd added that a few insurance companies might overlook a first speeding offence, while most will ignore those who opt to take a safety awareness course instead of a fine and licence endorsement.
“But all insurers will penalise those who commit a mobile phone offence and some may even decline to renew cover when a policy comes up for renewal,” he said.
“Offenders are much more likely to make a claim. So their premium will reflect that risk.”
Another survey, conducted online amongst 30,000 drivers, found almost a third found phone use at the wheel was the “most irritating” driver behaviour. It ranked alongside tailgating for the danger drivers felt it created.