DRIVERS who break the law face new penalties within weeks with a double clampdown on those threatening lives with higher penalties for using a mobile or for speeding.
The doubled new penalties for using a hand-held mobile phone, confirmed last November, will be introduced from March 1, a Department for Transport spokesman confirmed.
Much higher fines for the worst speeders will follow – but while those topping 100mph on the motorway are an obvious sector, those clocking 41mph in a city 20mph zone will be equally subject to a stinging financial penalty – and even those doing just 31mph can be disqualified for seven to 28 days.
First offence driving ban
The new penalties for driving using a hand-held mobile phone at the wheel will mean driving bans for new drivers
For mobile phones the fine doubles to £200 but with licence penalty points doubled to six – and no alternative of ‘driver education’ to avoid points – any drivers with existing licence endorsements face increased risk of a driving ban that could cost them their job and livelihood.
The move follows several high-profile cases of fatalities caused by drivers using mobile phones at the wheel.
In October, lorry driver Tomasz Kroker, who killed a mother and three children on the A34 near Newbury while distracted by his phone, was jailed for 10 years, shortly after a Hampshire van driver was jailed for nine for killing a cyclist on the A31 near Farnham in Surrey while texting.
Yet despite the ensuing publicity surrounding these cases and the impending rise in penalties, it was revealed only this week that 8,000 drivers were caught in a campaign last November.
Under the new penalties younger drivers are at great risk of being stripped of their licence and having to resit their tests. Any car or van driver clocking up six points for any offences within two years of gaining their licence faces an automatic disqualification and their licence rescinded. The same limit applies to HGV and bus drivers.
But in a second move to cut road dangers, the Sentencing Council has announced that speeding fines for the most serious cases in England and Wales will rise by up to 50% after a review of sentencing guidelines for magistrates’ courts.
Whether a driver is caught doing 41mph in a 20mph zone, or 101mph on a motorway, they could be fined 150% of their weekly income up to £1,000 or £2,500 on a motorway.
Most serious speeding category
The Sentencing Council said it wanted to ensure a “clear increase in penalty” as the seriousness of offending increases.
It said the changes were not intended to result in significant differences to current sentencing practice, but to target specific offences.
The current limit for a speeding fine is 100% of the driver’s weekly wage, up to £1,000 – or £2,500 if they are caught on a motorway.
When the new guidelines come into force on 24 April, magistrates will be able to increase the fine to 150% – although the upper cash limit will stay the same.
In 2015, 166,695 people in England and Wales were sentenced for speeding offences and 166,216 were fined. The average fine was £188, but two people were also sent to prison.
The Sentencing Council held a consultation with magistrates and criminal justice professionals in 2016 and the feedback was that current guidelines “did not properly take into account the increase in potential harm that can result as speed above the speed limit increases”.
As a result, it has increased the penalty to send a clear message.
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