From today (Wednesday 1st March 2017), the penalties for using a hand held mobile phone whilst behind the wheel of a car will be increasing to 6 points and a £200 fine.
This increase in points means that if you are a driver who has held their licence for less than two years, being caught on your phone JUST ONCE will result in your licence being revoked by the DVLA.
To get your licence back you will need to retake and pass both parts of the driving test, resulting in considerable expense, and time off the road. Additionally your new licence will still show the 6 points, which will have an impact on the insurance premium you have to pay.
Experienced drivers are not immune to the consequences of the change in the law either. Most insurance companies request details of any driving convictions that you’ve received in the past five years, and it’s illegal to withhold any such information.
Drivers who accumulate penalty points invariably face higher insurance premiums. Also bear in mind that the points stay on your driving record for four years, so a single incident may have long term financial implications.
The penalties may not stop with the insurance rates either, as many insurance companies will charge you more in the excess payable, since you have proven that you are a higher risk by receiving these penalty points.
If you do not disclose a conviction and you then make a claim on your policy, your claim could be invalid and your insurance company can refuse to pay out. What’s more, non-disclosure can stay on your insurance record for life and affect any future insurance applications.
So what can you do?
The simplest thing is to turn your phone off, or put it in the glove box, out of reach. If you are on a long journey plan for driving breaks and check your phone for calls, messages or social media updates then.
Why not record a message saying that if you are not answering your phone then you are probably driving and you will get back to that person as soon as it is safe to do so.
Susan Storch, Chair of Road Safety Wales said
“Mobile phones, whether hand held or hands free, are a distraction to all drivers, regardless of their experience. Using a mobile phone for any purpose while driving will considerably increase the chance of being involved in a collision.
With the new law’s introduction more than 28 days away, there is plenty of time to get used to not having your phone to hand when driving. Make it a habit to switch it off, mute it or hide it.”