A report by the BBC states that fewer drivers are being punished for mobile use, insinuating that either fewer are breaking the law or that police officers aren’t catching or properly punishing/penalising those who do.
The statistics show that the number of drivers given penalty points for driving whilst using a mobile phone has dropped by 24% since 2013. And across 36 forces since 2010 it has fallen by 40%. But the figures don’t show the underlying cause for the drop in fixed penalty notices being handed out.
One force, in particular, that has caught our attention is Staffordshire Police. In 2014, they issued just four fixed penalty notices to drivers using mobile phones at the wheel. Instead, they offered offenders the option of attending a four-hour course (at their own expense) as an alternative to the usual three-point penalty. This course is run by police, fire, and victim support services.
Staffordshire Police are leading the way believing that education is better than fines. Those who attend the What’s Driving Us? course come away with a much clearer understanding that using a mobile phone whilst driving is not a minor offence but a potentially life changing one.
During the half day course, drivers are shown the consequences of lapses of concentration due to being on a phone. They are shown pictures and videos of real life crashes and the aftermath of people’s actions on the road. The police officers also explain what constitutes the offence, dispelling such myths as it being okay to text if stationary in traffic.
The courses are much more likely to prevent people from using their mobile phones at the wheel again rather than a few points on a licence and a fixed fine. But no one gets off without punishment if they are caught using a phone whilst driving. Whether it is a fixed penalty notice or the half day course, there are still consequences to their actions.
Slater and Gordon Driving Offence Solicitor Paul Reddy says: “I have dealt with many clients that have had to live with the fact that they had caused the death of an innocent person and the prospect of a prison sentence hanging over them purely because of a moment’s inattention. Many people do not appreciate the potentially serious ramifications of using a mobile telephone whilst driving.
Staffordshire Police should be praised for their approach to dealing with mobile phone offenders in this way as prevention is much better than the cure. It is not the case that these offenders are being in any way ‘let off’, the course is 4 hours long and costs around the same as the fixed penalty would do if they accepted the points.”
Paul Reddy is a Driving Offence Solicitor at Slater and Gordon Lawyers in Manchester.
If you have been accused or charged with driving whilst using a mobile phone, an iPad, a Blackberry or another device, call Slater and Gordon Lawyers for a free initial consultation on freephone 0808 175 7998 or contact us online and we will call you.