DRIVERS caught using their mobile phones behind the wheel face tougher penalties from today (March 1).
Changes in the law will see offenders receive six points on their licence and a £200 fine – double what it previously was.
And new drivers will now automatically lose their licence. This will affect anyone under the age of 21, who has had their licence for two years or under.
There were 145 recorded collisions across the Thames Valley, between January 1, 2015 and September 30, 2016, when a mobile phone could have caused the crash.
During this time 11 people were killed and 195 injured, while 29,564 tickets were issued to drivers caught using a mobile device.
One of the highest profile incidents to occur during that time was the deaths of four people on the A34 between East and West Ilsley on August 10, last year.
Tomasz Kroker, aged 30, has since been jailed for 10 years after pleading guilty to four counts of causing death by dangerous driving. He was looking for music on his phone while driving his lorry.
It was travelling at 50mph when it crashed into stationary traffic, killing Tracey Houghton, aged 45, her sons, Josh and Ethan, aged 13 and 11, and her partner’s 11-year-old daughter Aimee Goldsmith.
Kate Goldsmith, Aimee’s mother, said: “My family and I welcome the change in the law, which brings harsher penalties for the use of mobile phones while driving.
“However, our view remains that these measures do not yet go far enough to discourage drivers from this irresponsible practice, which is often considered by many as only a soft bending-of-the-rules of driving.
“We will continue to support campaigning for further changes in the law until we see a definitive shift in cultural behaviour; when all UK citizens believe the use of mobiles while driving is no longer socially acceptable; when they will also stand by, and act upon, those words responsibly.
“The lives of our children, family and friends depend upon us making this commitment to obey the law.”
Thames Valley Police and Hampshire Constabulary will be taking part in a national crackdown to enforce the new laws on the district’s roads, starting from today.
From next Wednesday (March 8) a change in policy for the local forces will also mean that offenders will not now be routinely offered the National Driver Offender Retraining Scheme as an alternative to the fixed penalty notice – and the fine and points that brings with it.
During the week-long enforcement campaign there will be no option to undertake the scheme either.